Even prescription medication can trigger a DUI charge

By James Morton

At Morton & Gettys, we frequently represent clients who are facing DUI charges where the officer alleges their driving was impaired by drugs instead of alcohol.

Quite often in these cases the driver’s breath sample registers less than a 0.08 alcohol level. Despite being below the legal blood alcohol content limit in South Carolina, the driver is still charged with DUI.

How is this possible? In short, it’s because South Carolina law prohibits driving while under the influence of drugs that “materially and appreciably” impair the ability to operate a vehicle. This section of state law, SC Code Section 56-5-2930, applies to drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two.

For the most part, South Carolina law does not differentiate between impairment due to alcohol versus impairment caused by drugs. Either can result in a DUI charge in South Carolina.

Nor does the law make a distinction between impairment caused by illegal versus legal drugs. A person can be charged with DUI after taking prescription medications if those medications impair the ability to drive. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions that over-the-counter medications, particularly cold medicines and antihistamines, can impair driving as well.

While driving under influence cases are handled the same whether drugs or alcohol is involved, there is a difference in the potential punishment for a DUI conviction involving alcohol. The potential consequences increase as the blood alcohol level registered rises.

  • The first level of penalties is for a blood alcohol score of 0.08-0.09 or a refusal to take the breath, urine, or blood test.
  • The second level of penalties is for a blood alcohol score of 0.10-0.15.
  • The third level is for a blood alcohol score greater than 0.16.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you need the help of an experienced Rock Hill DUI lawyer such as the team at Morton & Gettys. Initial DUI defense consultations are free so contact us to talk about your DUI defense today.

James Morton is an attorney with Morton & Gettys Law Firm in Rock Hill, SC. A former prosecutors,  his practice incorporates a range of criminal cases, including DUI. You can reach him at (803) 366-3388.

Information or interaction on this page should not be construed as establishing a client-attorney relationship or as legal advice. For advice about your specific situation, please consult one of our attorneys.