Each week, I attempt to pick a topic based off of questions that people ask me the most. Over the past month, I’ve been asked on numerous occasions “How can I be charged with DUI when I was legally prescribed to take that medication?” The Georgia Legislature foresaw this question when they drafted O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391. This statute covers driving under the influence not only of alcohol, but also driving under the influence of drugs, or other intoxicating substances.

First, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(2) states clearly that a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of “any drug” to the extent that it’s “less safe” for that person to drive. Subsection (b) of this statute is key in answering the question above. It states that a person charged with DUI cannot use as a defense the fact that they are “legally entitled” to use a particular drug. It goes on to say that a person using a legally prescribed drug is only in violation of this statute if such person is “rendered incapable of driving safely” as a result of using their legally prescribed drug. This is the law as it relates to driving under the influence of prescription medications. Now let me attempt to put this into real world application.

As most people understand, even legally prescribed drugs may have a significant impact on a person’s motor skills and functional capacity. Some drugs make people sleepy or groggy. Others drugs make people jumpy or jittery. If the side effects of these prescription drugs make a person a less safe driver on the roadways of Georgia, then that person should not drive after taking those medications.

The next question I always get is “How do they prove that someone is a “less safe” driver?” The answer to that question often turns on the facts of each individual case. One of the things officers often observe is an impaired driver not staying in his or her lane. If a person is all over the road, then that’s a good indicator that that person is “less safe” on the roadway. Also, if a person causes a wreck, then that is certainly a mark of a “less safe” driver. There are many other things that are consider less safe acts. Please seek the advice of an attorney should any of these questions impact your life.

Jeffrey E. Johnston is a local attorney licensed to practice in Georgia. His practice focuses primarily on Criminal Defense and Personal Injury law. His law firm can be reached at (706) 869-8171.