One of the things I often hear from clients charged with a DUI is that “I had a prescription for that medication.” In the State of Florida, that is not a legal defense for a DUI as we will likely see from the recent arrest of Tiger Woods in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Tiger Woods was arrested this weekend on suspicion of DUI. He took a breathalyzer test and blew a .000, meaning there was zero alcohol in his blood. This does not mean that he will be able to walk away without a conviction though. He stated to police that he takes several medications, and this morning he gave a statement that this was caused by an “unexpected reaction to prescription medications.” Although the fact that it was a prescription medication can be used as mitigation in order to possibly negotiate with the State Attorney to knock the case down to a lower charge, the law does not make an exception for whether the medication is prescribed or not.
To be convicted of a DUI in Florida one must:
- Be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle;
- Be under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893; AND
- That person must be affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired
There is one final caveat. As you can see above in 2, the substance must either be alcohol or a substance set forth in those above two statutes. While medicines like Ambien and Promethazine can certainty impair ones normal faculties, they are not listed in the above statutes, and one cannot be convicted of a DUI based upon taking medicines like these. Obviously one should not drive under any substance that can cause impairment.
Last month, Tiger had his fourth back surgery, a spinal fusion. I am speculating that at least one of the medicines he was prescribed was a controlled substance under chapter 893. Also, according to the probable cause affidavit, Tiger agreed to a urine sample. Soon we will see exactly what type of medication he was on. Ultimately, whether he has a prescription to these medications will not be a legal defense.