DWI and Prescription Drugs in Apple Valley, MN & Twin Cities

Although DWI is most often related to alcohol, a person driving with prescription drugs in his or her body may be arrested for driving while impaired (DWI) in Minnesota even though the medication may have been prescribed by a licensed physician and taken as prescribed.

Many prescription drugs are controlled substances regulated by the federal and state governments. A Minnesota driver who has any detectable amount of certain types of controlled substances or their metabolites — including prescription drugs — in his or her body may be arrested for DWI if a law enforcement officer decides he or she is impaired due to a controlled substance.

The use of some types of prescription medications — even without alcohol or any illegal drugs — may result in a DWI charge for “drugged driving.” If a person mixes a prescription drug with alcohol, he or she could face both drugged driving and drunk driving charges.

In Minnesota, drugged driving and drunk driving convictions impose some of the same criminal and administrative penalties, which may include jail time, expensive fines, vehicle forfeiture, driver’s license suspension, and more.

Attorney for DWI with Prescription Drugs in Apple Valley, Minnesota

If you have been arrested for DWI with prescription drugs or drugged driving in Apple Valley, Minnesota or anywhere in the Twin Cities area, including Dakota County, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, and Anoka County, you need a skilled and experienced attorney to explain the legal ramifications of your situation and help you learn about your options in order for you to make the right decision in your case.

James Blumberg Law is equipped with the experience and dedication to aggressively defend you against a DWI with prescription drugs or drugged driving charge. It may be possible to avoid a trial or obtain a dismissal of charges, but James Blumberg Law will take a case to trial if necessary to fight against a conviction. Clearing your name is our priority.

Call James Blumberg Law today at (952) 431-7758 to schedule your free initial consultation to begin the process of protecting your rights and your freedom.

Information about DWI with Prescription Drugs in Apple Valley, MN and the Twin Cities Area

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Prescription Drugs in the U.S. and Minnesota

Prescription medications are ubiquitous in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half (48.7 percent) of all Americans have taken at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days (based on data from 2009-2012). In 2013, it was widely reported that seven out of 10 Americans take prescription drugs.

No matter whether they are needed to treat pain, anxiety, a cough, or some other medical condition, state law criminalizes driving while under the influence of certain controlled substances in Apple Valley, Minneapolis, St. Paul, the entire Twin Cities area, and throughout Minnesota.

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DEA and Minnesota Schedules of Controlled Substances

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains five “schedules” of controlled substances (using Roman numerals), with Schedule I drugs considered the least medically useful as well as the most addictive and Schedule V drugs considered the most medically useful and least addictive. There are prescription drugs in all five classes, although prescriptions for Schedule I drugs are rare.

Minnesota maintains its own five schedules of controlled substances (Minnesota Statute 152.02), which mostly mirror the federal schedules, although the federal and state schedules differ on the classification of certain drugs.

The schedules include prescription and “street” drugs, some legal with a doctor’s prescription, others illegal under almost any circumstances. A few examples:

  • Schedule I controlled substances include: marijuana, heroin, LSD, and MDMA (“ecstasy”)
  • Schedule II controlled substances include: codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, cocaine, and methamphetamine
  • Schedule III controlled substances include: anabolic steroids and barbiturates
  • Schedule IV controlled substances include: benzodiazepines (such as anxiety drugs) and benzodiazepine derivatives (such as sleep aids)
  • Schedule V controlled substances include: Certain anticonvulsants, and drugs used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes

Driving with a detectable level of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or Schedule II is illegal in Minnesota and subject to arrest, even if a physician prescribed the drug. A driver may also be arrested for DWI if a law enforcement officer decides a driver is impaired due to certain prescription drugs.

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What is Drugged Driving?

People who take prescription drugs, including pain relievers such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs, or psychiatric medications may be at risk of a DWI charge.

In Minnesota, “it is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle” when he or she is “under the influence” of a Schedule I or II drug (Minnesota Statute 169A.20).

However, if it can be proven “by a preponderance of evidence … that the defendant used the controlled substance according to the terms of a prescription issued for the defendant” by a licensed medical professional, state law recognizes an “affirmative defense” (M.S 169A.46, Subd. 2) that may result in a dismissal or reduction of the DWI charge.

A problem with an affirmative defense is that it shifts the burden of proof from the prosecutor to the defendant, and most usually compels testimony in court from the defendant or his or her doctor about private medical matters.

If a prosecutor can prove to the court that a person was under the influence of a controlled substance to the extent that he or she could not safely drive, a drugged driving conviction may occur.

Prescription drugs sometimes remain in a person’s body for several days or even longer. This means a driver could face DWI charges even after a drug’s effects have ceased, but the law does not address this issue.

Driving with banned prescription drugs is considered a “per se” violation of the law. (“Per se” is a Latin term meaning “by or in itself.”) A prosecutor may introduce any presence of a prescription drug into evidence, because a person is technically considered impaired under the law due to any presence of certain prescription drugs, regardless of his or her acuity.

Drug recognition experts often are used to help determine if a person is under the influence of a controlled substance. Drug recognition experts are law enforcement officers who have received special training in field sobriety testing and certain protocols used to detect drug impairment.

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Implied Consent Laws for DWI with Prescription Drugs

Under the state’s implied consent law (Minnesota Statute 169A.51), a person who is granted the privilege to drive agrees to chemical testing of the breath, blood or urine if the police suspect him or her to be under the influence of alcohol or some other substance that caused an impairment, including a prescription drug.

If a driver who is suspected of DWI with prescription drugs consents to a drug test, his or her urine or blood will be tested for the presence of drugs.

Blood tests are rarer than urine tests, but tend to be more accurate. However, no drug or alcohol test is inherently valid. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to find flaws in the testing equipment, mistakes made in the administration of the test, or the traffic stop itself may have been illegal.

In Minnesota, an arresting officer must read the state’s implied consent advisory statement to a suspect, explaining that testing is mandatory and refusal is a crime. The statement also explains that the person has the right to consult an attorney before taking the test; this right is limited to the extent that it cannot unreasonably delay administration of the test.

If a driver refuses a DWI test or a test for drugs, his or her driver’s license may be revoked for up to one year.

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Criminal Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs

The criminal penalties for drugged driving in Minnesota are generally the same as those for drunk driving, unless there are aggravating factors, which could enhance punishment. Examples of aggravating factors are prior DWI conviction(s), the presence of a minor in the vehicle at the time of the newest DWI charge, or a BAC of .20 or higher.

Under the statute, a first DWI for being under the influence of prescription drugs would likely result in a fourth-degree DWI charge, which is a misdemeanor offense. A conviction may impose a sentence of up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both (Minnesota Statute 169A.27).

If a person is arrested for his or her second drugged driving offense within 10 years, without any other aggravating factors involved, it would likely be considered a third-degree DWI, which is a gross misdemeanor. A conviction would impose a sentence of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $3,000, or both (Minnesota Statute 169A.26).

A third drugged driving charge within 10 years also would be considered a gross misdemeanor, but it would be a second-degree DWI, if no other aggravating factors are involved with the same criminal penalties as a second offense (Minnesota Statute 169A.25).

A fourth drugged driving offense within 10 years is a felony offense, or a first-degree DWI. According to Minnesota Statute 169A.24, a person found guilty of a felony DWI offense could face up to seven years in prison, a fine of up to $14,000, or both.

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Administrative Repercussions for Drugged Driving in Minnesota

In addition to criminal penalties imposed by a court, a person convicted of DWI with prescription drugs may also be subject to administrative penalties imposed by the state Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Unlike DWI cases involving alcohol, in which administrative penalties are determined by a person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), no tests exist to determine to what extent a person is under the influence of a prescription drug. Although the law does not address this issue, a driver convicted of DWI with prescription drugs may lose his or her driving privileges anyway.

A drugged driving first-time offender could lose his or her license for 90 days, and a second offense could mean losing driving privileges for up to one year. If a person is charged with a third offense, his or her license could be suspended for three years. A fourth offense could result in a four-year suspension.

Other administrative penalties that could be enforced depending on the circumstances of the case include impoundment of license plates, forfeiture of vehicle, suspension or cancellation of driver’s license, mandatory drug and alcohol treatment, and fees.

Reinstatement of driving privileges in Minnesota requires a $680 fee, DWI knowledge test, driver’s license application with fees, and chemical health assessment.

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Additional Resources

Minnesota Statute 169 — Driving While Impaired — Read the state laws related to driving under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a prescription drug and about the penalties that may be imposed.

Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) — Minnesota Drug Control Update — The White House issued this report about drug use trends in Minnesota. It contains information about prescription drug abuse and drugged driving in Minnesota, as well as a map of ONDCP program and drug court locations.

Minnesota Judicial Branch — Dakota County District Court — The Dakota County Court website contains important information and links related to county courts.

Find an Attorney for DWI and Prescription Drugs in Apple Valley and the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota

A DWI with prescription drugs or drugged driving conviction can reverberate with serious repercussions for many years. If you are charged with DWI with prescription drugs, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your case.

At James Blumberg Law, we have a dedicated team who will strive for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today if you are in Apple Valley, Minnesota or anywhere in the Twin Cities area, including Dakota County, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, and Anoka County, or throughout the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and metropolitan Twin Cities area.

James Blumberg and his legal team can help you challenge your charges while fighting for a favorable outcome. We may be able to find flaws in the prosecution’s case or in the legality of the traffic stop, arrest, or drug testing, which may result in a dismissal or reduction of charges.

You deserve representation by a qualified criminal defense attorney in your case. Your future is important, and James Blumberg Law can help you protect it. Contact us at (952) 431-7758 to schedule a free initial consultation today.