Many people mistakenly believe that California DUI law merely involves drunk driving. But DUI stands for “driving under influence” and there are countless substances that can impair one’s ability to drive safely, including not only alcohol, but drugs as well. Some people only think of illegal drugs for cases of driving under the influence such as cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine. However, you can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) for having taken prescription drugs or even over-the-counter medications.

Heal or kill?

Many people need medication to alleviate mental or physical ailments; the mistake, however, is getting behind the wheel while under the influence of certain powerful medications. As a Rancho Cordova DUI attorney will tell you, this is a dangerous situation to put yourself in and the result can be catastrophic. According to an article in, some anti-anxiety drugs can dull one’s reaction time; others, like stimulants, can impair one’s ability to perceive distances and increase his or her risk-taking tendency. Anything that impairs judgment, concentration, or motor skills increases one’s risk of getting into an accident. lists some common prescription drugs and their effects:

  • Valium—a 10mg intake of this tranquilizer leads to impairment similar to that of a having a 0.10% BAC
  • Antidepressants—have sedating qualities which cause impairment similar to drunk driving
  • Decongestants—can cause anxiety, drowsiness, and dizziness
  • Sleeping pills—residual effects still potent even after sleep
  • Antihistamines- can delay reaction time and weaken coordination

Some notable cases involve the drugs Vicodin and Ambien. Vicodin’s main component is hydrocodone, a pain reliever that can cause impairment similar to morphine. Whereas Ambien, a sleep aid, has been recorded to induce trances that reportedly can cause people to ‘sleep drive’.

Even with a perscription, you can be charged with DUID under California law. Charges are considered a misdemeanor at first, but your fourth DUI offense can be filed as a felony. Also, if your negligence has caused an accident which caused injury or physical damage to a third party you could be charged with a felony.

Like an alcohol DUI, a DUID conviction includes 3-5 year probation, fines starting at $1800, license suspension, California DUI school completion, and a possible jail sentence. If you have any driving under the influence charge, an experienced criminal defense attorney from Rancho Cordova firms, such as the Chastaine Law Office, can help you and may find reasonable evidentiary loopholes to have the penalty reduced, or even the entire case dismissed.