Tiger Woods recently made big headlines after receiving a DUI related to prescription drug use. While we have previously touched upon the topic of driving under the influence of drugs, this case provides an excellent excuse to revisit the subject. Here’s what you should know, courtesy of Vista criminal attorney Peter M. Liss.
First, Tiger Woods was not under the influence of alcohol, or even illegal drugs when he was stopped by police. Even so, when they pulled behind his already stopped vehicle, it was pretty obvious that something was not right. His Mercedes sitting in the right lane of traffic with the right blinker flashing. The two tires on the right side of the vehicle were flat and the rims had suffered damage, along with the driver’s side front bumper area. The engine was running, but Woods was completely asleep behind the wheel.
Woods told police he had suffered an unexpected reaction to prescription drugs, including the opiate Vicodin, but that is not a legal defense for driving under the influence as you are expected to refrain from driving when using a new medication until you know that you can safely operate a vehicle while using the drug. Opiates in particular are known for causing bad driving and they all contain a warning on the bottle to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while using the medication.
Unfortunately, any Vista defense lawyer will tell you this is far from the only mistake he made during his DUI arrest. He willingly submitted to a handheld portable breathalyzer and field sobriety tests (including some that have not been certified by the NHTSA as reliable indicators of drunkenness). To make matters worse, Woods answered police questions and then changed his story immediately when discussing where he was going.
Of course, when a driver is completely asleep in a running vehicle stopped in the middle of the road, it would be hard for even the most skilled Vista DUI attorney to fight the charges, but with so much evidence against him, it will also make it unlikely Woods will be able to negotiate a good plea bargain.
Remember that in California, you cannot drive under the influence of any drug whether prescribed or not that impairs your ability to drive like a safe cautious sober person. While unconsciousness is a defense to DUI, it is not when it is a result of voluntary intoxication of something you knew would affect your ability to drive.
Driving under the influence of drugs, even those legally prescribed, will result in the same sentencing as someone who has been caught driving under the influence of alcohol. In CA, that means someone facing similar charges to Tiger Woods could face up to 6 months in jail, $1000 in fines, a penalty assessment of up to 180% of the fines and a 6 month license suspension. That is why you should always call a top Vista DUI lawyer as soon as you have been accused of driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.
If you have been charged with a DUI please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Jamie