Officers detained a woman south of Atlanta after she broke traffic laws and showed signs of impairment. Courts convicted her for driving while using drugs – drugs prescribed by her doctor.

Police arrested Linda Meade for driving under the influence (DUI) when she failed a field sobriety test, though chemical screening showed that she hadn’t been drinking or using illegal drugs. However, she did test positive for a sleep aid her doctor prescribed, and Georgia laws outline that whatever the reason you’re unable to drive safely, you could be heading for a DUI charge.

Driving while prescribed

Meade said she took the medication the day before and followed precautions from her doctor every step of the way. But the law gives small consideration to those that are legally taking a drug, and the presiding judge sentenced her to a year of probation, two nights in jail and suspended her license for six months.

Bad medicine

Driving under the influence can cover a broad range, often more than just what shows up on a breathalyzer:

  • Less safe: The fact that a doctor gave you the go-ahead to take a drug may not matter when the officer is considering arrest, even if you refuse a chemical test. You may be in trouble if the state can prove that you were using the drug, and it led your operation of a vehicle to be less safe than acceptable standards.
  • Per se: If you do submit to a chemical test, the presence of the drug may be the only concern, not the concentration levels. There is room in the law for prescribed medication, but that protection can quickly go out the window if you aren’t capable of driving safely.
  • Combinations: While moderate alcohol use may keep you under the limit when it comes to the breathalyzer, adding prescription drugs to the mix can quickly leave you unfit to drive. Again, if an officer determines that you’re unable to operate a motor vehicle safely, the chemical readout may not enter into it.

Prescription drugs may be necessary, but there’s little allowance for using them while driving. If your medication significantly alters the way you drive, you may want to think twice about getting behind the wheel.