Law enforcement officers do not need to know a person has consumed alcohol before stopping that person’s vehicle and commencing an OVI investigation. Similarly, a driver need not be under the influence of alcohol in order for an officer to place that person under arrest. Drivers may be arrested and face OVI charges if there is probable cause to believe they are under the influence of any substance that impairs their ability to safely drive. The list of potentially-impairing substances is long and includes alcohol, alcoholic beverages, marijuana, illegal drugs, and even prescription medications.
The Problem with Prescription Medications and Driving
This may be disquieting news, especially as the Baby Boomer generation (and Generation X behind them) continue to age and experience chronic health problems. Some of these medications may be critical to the effective management of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic pain. As necessary as these medications may be, some of them can severely impact a person’s ability to drive a vehicle safely.
Does this mean that drivers who are using prescribed medications and who must venture out onto the roads must risk an OVI conviction? Not necessarily.
No Per Se Intoxication Level Except for Amphetamines and Marijuana
In Ohio, a person commits a per se violation of the DUI/OVI laws if the alcohol concentration in that person’s blood or breath exceeds a certain threshold. A prosecutor need only prove that the driver’s alcohol concentration exceeded this threshold and that the driver was operating a vehicle in order to secure a conviction. In such a case, the prosecution need not prove that the driver was actually impaired by the alcohol in their system.
In the case of prescription drugs, only amphetamines are subject to a per se limit. Drivers who have more than 500 nanograms of amphetamine per milliliter of urine, or greater than 100 nanograms of amphetamine per milliliter of blood, may be found to have committed a per se violation of the DUI/OVI law. For marijuana, the per se limits are:
- For THC, more than two nanograms per milliliter of blood or more than 10 nanograms per milliliter of urine;
- For THC metabolite (the byproduct of marijuana that can remain in a person’s system for several days after marijuana consumption), more than 50 nanograms per milliliter of blood or more than 35 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
For all other prescription drugs, a prosecutor can only obtain a conviction by showing that the driver or operator of the vehicle was under the influence of one or more prescription drugs to an extent that the person could not operate their vehicle without exhibiting indicators of impairment.
Affirmative Defenses to a Prescription Drug OVI Charge
Lawful users of prescription drugs who are cited for OVI may have a defense to their charge if they produce evidence that they were taking a prescription medication prescribed to them according to their provider’s direction at the time of their arrest. This affirmative defense must be proven by the charged driver, but if proven, acts as a bar against further prosecution for the offense In other words, the driver who successfully raises this defense will not face any penalties related to their OVI charge.
Dawes Legal, LLC Available to Assist Ohio Drivers
Dawes Legal, LLC’s experienced and dedicated legal team can assist you if you find yourself charged with OVI in Ohio. If you are taking prescription drugs under the advice and direction of a licensed physician, you may have a defense to your charge. There may be other defenses available to you if the officer did not properly conduct the traffic stop or collect a sample of your blood or urine. Speak with Dawes Legal, LLC by calling (614) 733-9999 to learn more about the services we offer to clients charged with OVI.