Prescription Drugs & DUI Arrests in Las Vegas

DUI & Prescription Medication:
Should You Volunteer Information to the Police?

Prescription Medication and DUI in Las Vegas

The most serious problems I run into with DUI’s involving drugs are when prescription medications are involved.

People taking them think they are doing no wrong and have no problem telling police they are taking them. They have no idea what they are doing by volunteering this information and what the uninformed police office will do to them after knowing what medications they are taking. From my experience, all too often it ends up in their arrest from the information they provided.

Determining the Drug Level

Unlike illicit prohibited drugs that have NRS blood/urine drug levels to define impairment, prescription medications do not have legal definitions to make impairment determinations for any drug levels.

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Evidence of Impairment

The blood level of a particular medication identified in a person’s system is what police or prosecuting attorneys use for evidence of impairment. It’s doubtful they know anything more about it than what can be quickly discovered off the Internet. In reality, this kind of evidence is mostly about doctors taking care of their patients, and has little to do with prosecuting DUI cases.

In other words, just because a drug (better termed a medication) is in a person’s system, it does not mean the person is impaired by that medication. In fact, when you get into the domain of doctor/patient care, the medication often helps the person drive more carefully and dependably along the highway than he or she would have driven without it.

The last two cases I’ve been involved in, shows just such set of circumstances.

Drug Nordiazepam and DUI Arrest

One case involving an accident and subsequent DUI arrest, was an individual suffering from a mild bipolar issue who was prescribed a number of different medications, none of which were identified in his bloodstream except one, which was nordiazepam, at a low therapeutic level. I explained to his attorney that the medication would have helped his client be a more responsible driver due to his condition. As a result of this and other arguments offered by this good attorney, he was able to reduce the charges, not to reckless, but better, to Due Care.

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Xanax Pills and DUI Arrest

The other Las Vegas case I had to testify in Judge Goodwin’s court. It involved a DUI arrest where the individual was weaving on the highway. He told the officer he was under doctor’s care and being prescribed alprazolam (Xanax). As a result, he was directly arrested for DUI drugs. Blood levels came back, again within therapeutic range.

The DA was adamant to prosecute this individual and would not accept a plea bargain. As a result, I had to testify, which I rarely do. After deliberating about 20 minutes explaining to Judge Goodwin that I wouldn’t be in the courtroom if the blood level was abusive or above it’s therapeutic level, that as far as I was concerned as an expert, the defendant was not driving impaired due to the prescribed medications he was using, and whatever happened on the highway had to be for some other reason.

As a result, instead of the sought for plea reduction, the Judge acquitted the defendant completely of all charges. It turned out very nice and fair for the defendant.

Written by Dan R Berkabile
a guest writer for
Dan is a Forensic Toxicologist in Las Vegas.
He can be reached at

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