There is a wide range of medical conditions that people need to take prescription drugs for including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Prescription medications can have a number of side effects, some of which, like drowsiness or dizziness, can make it unsafe for an individual to be operating a motor vehicle. If a driver is under the influence while behind the wheel, even on a medication that was legally prescribed, he or she can be charged with a DUI. However, it is important to note that the driver must actually be impaired in order to be charged with this offense. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI charge, you can contact a Cherokee County DUI Lawyer for more information.
The law in Georgia states:
The fact that any person charged with violating this Code section is or has been legally entitled to use a drug shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this Code section; provided, however, that such person shall not be in violation of this Code section unless such person is rendered incapable of driving safely as a result of using a drug other than alcohol which such person is legally entitled to use. O.G.C.A. § 40-6-391 (b).
A police officer in Statham, Georgia has been accused by a number of people of false arrest. These people were arrested and charged with a DUI for driving after taking prescription medication. However, they claim that they were not actually impaired when they were stopped by Officer Marc Lofton. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, some of the individuals who were wrongly arrested spoke up at the Statham City Council meeting in November 2016, voicing their complaints against Lofton to the mayor and members of the city council. An online petition that sought to get the officer fired had been signed by almost 400 people.
One of those who spoke up at the meeting was Mary Williams. She stated that she had been wrongfully arrested in October 2015 while heading home from work. She claimed that "she had no alcohol or illegal drugs in her system that would affect her driving." In additio, she stated that just twenty minutes before being arrested: "'I was driving a United States Postal Services vehicle. … I did not run into a ditch. I did not hit another car. I did not hit a mailbox. I didn't even hit a squirrel. And, I never so much as delivered the wrong mail to the wrong mailbox that day.'" Williams had taken a prescribed antidepressant at 5 a.m. According to the Athen Banner-Herald, "[t]hat, Lofton told her, was impairing her driving enough to arrest her on a DUI charge." Williams planned on fighting her arrest. (The charges against her were dismissed on January 13, 2017.)
The mayor of Statham City stated that he intended to look into the allegations made against Lofton.
According to a December 2016 article by CBS 46, the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia ("Council") looked into the false arrest claims and determined that there was no criminal misconduct on Lofton's part, but did find that there were significant errors in some of the cases. The Council also stated that it believed that Lofton did not have adequate training in DUI cases involving prescription drugs and would benefit from additional training courses. In addition, Allan Johnston, the Statham Police Chief, stated that Lofton needed, and would receive more training.
If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to contact Cherokee County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today to discuss your case.