By WILLIAM FRANCIS
It's legal to drink and drive in Oregon.
And, there is no law against using a controlled substance and driving.
There is no law that prohibits driving while feeling the effects of alcohol or a controlled substance.
However, there is a law against driving while a person is “under the influence” of alcohol, an inhalant or a controlled substance (prescription medications included).
The "typical" DUI case is no longer limited to "drunk driving." The police are arresting more drivers for operating a vehicle while allegedly "under the influence" of any number of prescription medications. (A person is presumed to be “under the influence of intoxicating liquor” if a chemical test shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.)
However, police often arrest drivers who have a BAC that is lower – sometimes much lower – than that. The police and the prosecutor will often try to convict a driver with less than .08 BAC by alleging that the person was “impaired,” or otherwise was “adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree” by “intoxicating liquor,” an inhalant, a controlled substance, or any combination of these substances.
Police frequently accuse my clients of being impaired by the medications prescribed by their own doctors. These may be medications such as Ambien, Xanax and other benzodiazepines, but there are many others. Police also have taken an interest in whether a driver "admits" to taking an antidepressant such as Prozac, Lexipro or any other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The police are trained that an antidepressant has the same effect on a person as a central nervous system depressant, such as alcohol.
Because of gaps in their training, police are often confused about the effects of a central nervous system depressant (such as alcohol), compared clinically to an "anti-depressant" medication. This generally seems to arise from omissions and gaps in the medical training of police officers who testify in court as "drug recognition" evaluators." (Often, these police officers refer to themselves as "drug recognition experts," and will attempt to testify as experts.)
My clients have prevailed in many "drug recognition" cases that went to trial. (These cases have involved medications such as Ambien, Xanax and other benzodiazepines, and others have been more complicated because they also have involved blood-alcohol levels of less than 0.08 percent.)
These cases can be won, and the probability of success increases if the scientific and medical training of the police is examined.
Oregon drivers have been arrested and prosecuted for using these medications: