person in bed blowing nose with medicine on table next to them

How Your Winter Cold Can Lead to a DUI

While having a cough and runny nose doesn’t mean you’re under the influence, the medicine you take might. Here’s what you should know about drugged driving.

Medicine and Driving Safety

Many cold and flu medicines list potential side effects like drowsiness, blurred vision, and upset stomach. When behind the wheel, these can all affect the driver’s ability to drive safely. It is also important to note that some medications have drug interactions with alcohol. If you take cold medicine and have one drink, the effects of that drink and symptoms of intoxication may be amplified.

Medications Containing Alcohol

You may be surprised to learn that many medications include alcohol in their formulas.

Some examples include:

  • Benadryl Decongestant - 5% alcohol
  • Cheracol Plus - cough suppressant, 8% alcohol
  • Dialaudid Cough Syrup - cough suppressant, 5% alcohol
  • Robitussin - approximately 3.5% alcohol

For a detailed list of medications containing alcohol, click here.

Because there is alcohol in these medications, they could impact your blood alcohol concentration score. This means you could test higher than you expect after a breathalyzer test, especially if you took the medicine very shortly before taking a breath test.

DUI of Drugs

You may already know that you can be charged with DUI if you are found under the influence of marijuana, cocaine, or another illicit drug. What you may not know, though, is that you can face criminal DUI charges for being under the influence of legal, prescribed, or over-the-counter medications too.

Typically, this will be a misdemeanor offense.
The potential penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $300
  • Up to six months in jail

While there is a risk of criminal penalties for drugged driving after taking cold medication, it will be hard for prosecutors to get a conviction. This is in part because individuals driving after taking cold medication have no malintent, and were likely ignorant to any effects the medication could have on them. Additionally, it is hard to prove that the medication the driver took was the direct cause of their unsafe driving behavior. If the police choose to move forward by trying to prove the driver is under the influence of drugs, they will likely rely on evidence from field sobriety tests and a search of the vehicle.

Evidence for Drugged Driving

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests involve the driver balancing, walking in a straight line, and other behaviors that attempt to show a driver’s lack of coordination and weakened motor skills. What the police usually don’t tell drivers is that they are not required to take these tests. Many people believe that they must take any test that police officers request when in reality, they have the right to refuse.

When the police ask a driver to take a field sobriety test, they already suspect they are under the influence. They will be observing the driver with this in mind, making them more likely to pick up on small behaviors and attribute them to drug impairment.

Because there is no penalty for refusing field sobriety tests and no real benefit to the driver participating, drivers should not take these tests.

Vehicle Search

The next way that police may collect evidence to prove drugged driving is through a search of the vehicle. During this search, they will look for medications or other drugs that could be affecting the driver. Again, many drivers are unaware of their rights when it comes to police searches. In most cases, the police are not authorized to conduct a warrantless search unless the driver gives consent. If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you should invoke your rights and say no to a warrantless search.

Wisconsin Drugged Driving Defense

If you took cold and flu medicine this winter and were charged with drugged driving, our team at Melowski & Singh, LLC is here to help. We know how difficult these cases are for prosecutors to prove, and want to help fight for your case to be dismissed. Call us at (920) 294-1414 to begin your DUI defense.