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Can I be charged with an OWI while taking prescription drugs?

Though prescription drugs are essential for many Iowa residents, they can lead to dangerous situations on the road if they are not taken properly.

Iowa law treats prescription drugs the same as other controlled substances, including marijuana and cocaine. Driving with any amount of drugs in your system, whether legally prescribed or obtained illegally, could result in an arrest for suspicion of OWI. 

What if the drug has been prescribed to me?

Iowa law does allow for an affirmative defense to the charge that driving with any amount of drugs in your system is a "per se" OWI. If you were taking a medication prescribed to you, according to the directions of your doctor, you may have a valid defense against an OWI charge.

Of course, if you were abusing the medication and not following the directions of your doctor, you probably can't raise this type of defense. This includes specific instructions to refrain from driving while taking the medication.

Was alcohol involved?

Things can become more complicated if you have consumed any amount of alcohol along with the prescription drug. Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) may be under the legal limit. However, you can still be arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. This is because alcohol can intensify the effects of a medication.

Letting the police know that you're taking medication if they smell alcohol on your breath is not going to help your case. You should exercise your right to remain silent until you can speak with an attorney.

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