The most prescribed medication in the U.S. is a drug called Alprazolam, which is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines and include medications like Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin. In some states, Benzos are the second leading cause of DUI, according to AL.com. Alprazolam, and other drugs like it, are psychiatric medications which treat conditions like anxiety. While many people depend upon them, these medications can also be abused in some circumstances. The drugs can also impact the medication user's ability to drive a vehicle.
Although taking benzos is not unlawful if you have a doctor's prescription, arrests for driving under the influence of benzodiazepines are common. Any motorist who is accused of driving while impaired as a result of benzodiazepine use needs to understand his or her legal rights and should work with an attorney to try to put together a defense to avoid conviction on serious criminal charges.
Although benzodiazepine medications are legal drugs when prescribed by physicians, this does not mean you cannot be arrested, tried and convicted if you are found to be impaired by this medication while operating a vehicle. The key question is whether the drugs are in your system while driving and are actually causing you to be affected in such a way to prevent you from operating your vehicle safely. A prosecutor has the burden of proving the benzodiazepine medications you were taking left you unreasonable impaired.
Benzodiazepines can unquestionably cause impairment. "Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressant drugs often detected in biological samples from DUI offenders. They are associated with marked psychomotor impairment," according to the National Institute of Health. However, not every person who has the drugs show up in a drug test is actively impaired by them all the time.
Many people take anti-anxiety medications and they still drive, go to work, and live their lives. Every one of the millions of people who take benzodiazepines is not driving drunk each and every day when he or she commutes to and from work. The medications must be having an adverse impact on driving abilities or you should not be convicted of DUI based on having the drugs in your system.
It is also important to determine if police were justified in pulling you over and in preforming any toxicology testing which may provide evidence of benzodiazepine use. Police cannot just stop you for no reason, unless you were violating some kind of traffic law or doing something to raise suspicion.
Once you have been stopped, police also cannot just make you take a drug test without a legitimate reason for the law enforcement officer to believe you're unreasonably impaired. With alcohol, police can claim they smelled alcohol on your breath. This isn't the case with benzodiazepine drugs, which obviously don't have an odor. If your traffic stop or any testing performed was unlawful, the evidence cannot be used by a prosecutor to meet his burden of proof and try to secure a conviction against you for drunk driving.