Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a common offense, and it is one that law enforcement officials are well prepared to deal with during a traffic stop. Most police departments have breath testing equipment, as well as access to other chemical tests, that can definitively show that someone had alcohol in their system at the time of their arrest.
Some people mistakenly believe that because there are no roadside breath tests currently available for other drugs — ranging from illegal substances like methamphetamine to prescription medication like benzodiazepines — that they can drive while under the influence of these substances without risk.
In reality, law enforcement officers receive training on how to identify drugged drivers, just like they receive training on identifying drunk drivers. If they have reason to believe during the traffic stop that you are under the influence of drugs, they can arrest you and then obtain a warrant for a chemical test while you are in custody. Understanding Arizona’s approach to drugged driving can help you make better choices and keep everyone safer on the roads.
Any drug that can impact your driving skill could result in charges
People react in different ways to various prescription and over-the-counter medications. That broad range of potential reactions is one reason why the state of Arizona does not have an authoritative list of substances that you cannot use before driving. Instead, the law simply prohibits operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of anything that could impair you.
Depending on your body chemistry and other factors, even cough syrup and similar over-the-counter medications could affect how well you drive. As a driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are safe to drive. Choosing to get behind the wheel while impaired is not just dangerous, but it is also illegal.
Obviously, any sort of mind-altering prohibited substance, from methamphetamine and LSD to hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana, are illegal to use before driving. Many prescription medications, from cough suppressants to sleep aids and pain relievers, are also illegal to use before driving.
Anything that slows your reaction time or makes you drowsy is something you shouldn’t put in your body before driving. Even if you have a valid prescription for the medication, you could still wind up accused of drugged driving if you get behind the wheel after taking a medication.
Arizona law enforcement agencies hope to crack down on drugged driving
Advances in testing technology, as well as shifting cultural attitudes towards drug use, have made drugged driving more obvious of a threat and also easier to prove. As a result, law enforcement officers across Arizona are on the lookout for drugged drivers and arrest rates are on the rise.
Anything from swerving to driving well below the speed limit could be grounds for an officer to pull you over and conduct a brief roadside interview with you. Those who fail roadside sobriety testing or admit to being under the influence can expect to face both arrest and drugged driving charges.
If you or someone you love winds up in this situation, there is still the possibility of a defense. Talking to someone who understands criminal law in Arizona is a good starting point for exploring your options regarding drugged driving charges.