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A prescription doesn't make it okay to drive on drugs in Hawaii

People find criminal law quite confusing. The confusion is understandable given how each state has its own rules and laws. Even if someone knows the laws here in Hawaii, the laws frequently change. Just this summer, for example, the penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) offenders increased substantially.

Lawmakers, worried that too many people kept getting behind the wheel again and again while impaired, passed a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2019, officially increasing the penalties for DUI offenders. However, it isn't just the changing nature of the legal system that leaves people confused. Rather, the definitions of DUI and what exactly the law covers also seem to confuse many people.

While most people associate DUI charges with drunk driving and the consumption of alcohol, DUI charges can also stem from the use of drugs. Those who use illegal drugs, as well as those who drive while under the influence of prescription or even over-the-counter medication, could find themselves facing criminal charges if they get stopped by law enforcement while under the influence.

Drugged driving charges don't necessarily have specific chemical limits

When it comes to alcohol-related DUI charges, officers can charge someone if they appear visibly impaired while driving or if their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher. When it comes to drugs, both prescription and illicit, there are no chemical limits. Instead, officers have to make a judgment call based on the behavior and driving skill of the individual involved.

When officers determine that someone has taken prescription drugs including muscle relaxants, painkillers, sleep pills or certain other drugs that could affect driving ability, including medical marijuana, they will likely worry about impairment. They may perform a field sobriety test to see whether the person seems to have compromised reflexes, or the officers may err on the side of caution and arrest the individual in order to chemically test them and get them off the road.

Even if you have a prescription for the medication or a physician's recommendation for marijuana, law enforcement officers will not consider that an excuse for impaired driving. After all, there's a reason for the warning labels on drugs that say not to drive or use heavy machinery after ingesting them.

It is possible to fight impaired driving charges related to drugs

Too many people assume that they can't fight traffic charges, DUI or drugged driving allegations. As with any other kind of criminal offense, you have the right to defend your freedom and your reputation against allegations of drugged driving.

The strategies you employ to defend yourself will vary depending on the circumstances. From establishing that you weren't under the influence at the time of the traffic stop to demonstrating that the amount of medication you used would not have an effect on your ability to drive, there are many ways in which you can take action after drugged driving charges.

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