Drugged Driving: A Common Type of Oklahoma DUI

Drivers in Oklahoma know that it is against the law to get behind the wheel after having one drink too many while at happy hour. If caught driving drunk, penalties in Cleveland County can include jail time, court fees and fines and driving restrictions.

Police in Oklahoma are finding that many drivers are not aware that driving after taking prescription medicine can also lead to impaired driving and a potential criminal charge. In the past, many assumed that only illegal drug use would support a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. However, Mike Carter, Assistant Police Chief in Sand Springs, explained to the Sand Springs Leader that "if you're taking any sort of substance that takes away your ability to operate your vehicle, you are breaking the law."

For an injured person prescribed a pain medication, a quick drive to the store after taking the medicine could result in an impaired driving charge. An Oklahoma drug DUI attorney can discuss with you any penalties and available defenses following a driving under the influence of drugs charge.

Growing Nationwide Problem

The problem of driving under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs is not limited to Oklahoma. Drugged driving has been getting the attention of law enforcement across the country including in New York, Arkansas, Texas and Florida.

In Texas, drugs have been detected in 20 to 25 percent of toxicology tests taken following drunk driving arrests. Drugged driving arrests have increased 35 percent in New York since 2001. In Florida, drugs such as Oxycodone and Xanax are being blamed for more car crashes.

A 2009 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report revealed that 10.5 million Americans admitted to driving while under the influence of drugs. NHTSA also found that in 2009, one-third of the 12,055 drivers killed in a fatal motor vehicle crash tested positive for drugs.

New Federal Funding Sought for Enforcement

Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas have asked for funding in a pending federal transportation bill to help train police to identify drug-impaired drivers. Outward signs of impairment are much different for those who have used illegal or prescription drugs than for alcohol-related drunk driving

The Senators would like to see technology similar to a Breathalyzer test that could detect drug-impaired drivers. If they are successful in securing funding, additional training and tools would help police identify and take those under the influence of narcotics off the roadways.

Police currently have no technology such as a Breathalyzer to help them identify drugged drivers. However, a saliva test is being researched.

Across the country drug recognition trainings are becoming more common. Officers can become certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). A DRE is trained to evaluate and assess the following:

  • The driver's appearance and behavior - vital signs are measured and recorded
  • The driver's automatic responses and reactions
  • The driver's ability to process information and coordination

As part of the drug recognition training, officers are taught to consider anything that might indicate the driver is under the influence of drugs.

Drug-Impaired DUI Penalties

Oklahoma law makes it unlawful for any person to "drive, operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle" on any roads while "under the influence of any intoxicating substance ... which may render such person incapable of safely driving or operating a motor vehicle." It is also unlawful to drive with a combination of alcohol and any other intoxicating substance.

Penalties for violating DUI laws are the same whether you are under the influence of an illegal drug, prescription drug or alcohol. A first offense is a misdemeanor and may include a jail sentence between 10 days and one year, a fine up to $1,000 and court fees. In addition, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will conduct an assessment and evaluation of anyone convicted of a DUI and all recommendations must be followed. Driver's license suspensions and Oklahoma DPS hearings may also result from a conviction.

For more than one offense within a ten year period, a drugged driving offense becomes a felony and penalties increase. Inpatient drug or alcohol treatment may be ordered in addition to a jail or prison sentence. Community service and use of an ignition interlock device are other penalties that the court may order for a felony DUI conviction

The consequences of driving while under the influence of a controlled substance, whether alcohol, drugs or prescription medication can be very serious. Consulting an experienced Norman DUI attorney is the first step to resolving the criminal charges. An experienced lawyer can spot any possible defenses and may be able to negotiate a plea with the prosecution.