What many fail to realize though, is that an individual may also be charged with Minnesota DWI if found operating a vehicle while under the influence of legal substances such as cold medicine, cough syrup, painkillers, and other drugs routinely prescribed by a doctor. This law exists because certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs can greatly affect an individual’s physical and mental abilities, therefore impairing his or her ability to drive. In certain instances, the effects of such drugs can linger for an extended period of time.
A number of states across the country have per se laws on driving under the influence of drugs, which means that a driver may not operate a vehicle within any measurable amount of narcotic or specific prescription drugs in the system. For a driver to be charged with driving under the influence of drugs in Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia, however, it is required that a specific quantity of prohibited drugs be in the system.
In Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Utah, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, and Delaware, the zero tolerance law is followed. This means that an individual will be charged with DWI even with the slightest trace of any specified prohibited drug in the driver’s system.
As part of the Controlled Substances Act in Minnesota state law, controlled substances are categorized into schedules. It is considered a crime to drive a vehicle when an individual’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance that falls under Schedule I, Schedule II, or a metabolite of any of the identified substances. Common examples of Schedule I and II drugs include ecstasy, opium, and cocaine. Driving under the influence of prescription drugs also carry the same penalties as doing so under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs.
While the law considers it a crime to have certain prescription drugs in the system, a provision in Minnesota law offers a DWI defense that an individual may able to prove to a judge or jury that the drug intake was according to a prescription or the doctor’s orders. In such scenario, the DWI charges may possibly be dismissed. Of course, this means that the burden of proof has shifted from the prosecution to the defendant, and why the help of an experienced DWI defense lawyer is very important.