Navigating Colorado’s DUI Laws for Prescription Drugs Medication

On Behalf of The Leier Law Office, LLC
Long's Peak from Loveland, Colorado.

In Colorado, the police can arrest a person for DUI not only for alcohol and marijuana, but also for medically prescribed and recommended drugs like marijuana, Adderall, Zoloft, etc. It is not a defense to tell the judge that you were taking the drugs as prescribed. If you are on any medication – whether over the counter or prescribed by a healthcare professional – and it affects your ability to drive, you can end up with a criminal charge.

Understanding Prescription Drugs DUI in Colorado

Prescription drugs like antihistamines, pain relievers, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants can have the same or more serious effect than what alcohol has on the mind and body. For example, codeine is known to cause disorientation, sleepiness and dizziness, whereas valium can impair reaction time. Prescription sleep aids can also have lingering effects that can impair ones ability to operate a vehicle the following day.

DUI Charges

There are three types of DUI charges in Colorado: DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DUI Per Se. The difference between DWAI and DUI is the level of impairment, with DUI being more significant. Conversely, DUI Per Se means that a person had a blood alcohol content above .08 within 2 hours of driving a vehicle.

Determining Impairment

After a vehicle is stopped, law enforcement typically will look for signs of impairment such as bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on a person’s breath to warrant further investigation. They may then ask if you want to complete roadside sobriety maneuvers to determine if you are safe to drive. Keep in mind that roadside sobriety maneuvers are voluntary and you cannot be forced to complete them. Often times, cooperating with roadside maneuvers only helps law enforcement build a case against you.

The penalties for DUI in Colorado are very serious and can include jail time, fines, alcohol/drug treatment, community service, monitored sobriety testing, and loss of driving privileges. Fortunately, depending on your circumstances, there could be defenses you can use to mitigate or avoid these penalties altogether and it is best to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as charges are pressed against you.