Know how prescription drugs can affect DWI Tests in North Carolina


If you are stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol and you fail a field sobriety test it is highly likely that you will be arrested on the spot and charged with DWI. In North Carolina, if you are 21 years or older and your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or above, you are legally impaired. If you are under 21 years of age and have any alcohol in your bloodstream, then you are legally impaired and should not be driving as the state has a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving.

There are also times where you may not have been drinking but are taking legal prescription medications. Those legal prescription drugs can affect your ability to pass field sobriety tests even though you have not been drinking.

Before you take any prescription medication, make sure you read and understand the labeling and the instructions. If the medication says you should not be driving or operating heavy machinery after taking it for several hours, then you should not get behind the wheel. If you absolutely must drive, be sure that you understand how the medication affects you. Never drive if it is the first time you have taken the medication.

Some medicines can also affect motor skills, including judgement, response time, strength and coordination, all of which are necessary to drive safely. Field sobriety tests often use coordination, balance and focus to determine if you should be operating a vehicle, so certain medications could produce a false negative. Certain drugs also cause the blood to absorb alcohol faster, so it takes lower levels of alcohol to become intoxicated.

Some prescription medications should never be used while you are driving or operating any type of machine. This includes stimulants; painkillers with narcotics; sleeping pills; sedatives; and cold, flu and allergy medication that make you drowsy. Some diabetes medications can also affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely.  Even if you blow under a 0.08 BAC the police can still arrest you for suspicion of DWI if you are “appreciably impaired.”  Legal and illegal drugs (i.e. marijuana) could give the police probable cause to arrest you for DWI even if you have not consumed any alcohol.

If you have taken a certain medication and are unaware of how the side effects will decrease your ability to pass a field sobriety test, you may have reasonable doubt in court when it comes to proving whether you were at fault for driving under the influence in North Carolina.

Protecting your future is vital whenever you are charged with a crime like DWI in the Raleigh area. The most important thing you can do if you are arrested for DWI, whether you were drinking or just under the treatment of legal, prescription medication, is to consult with an experienced Raleigh DWI Attorney immediately.

The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC handles DWI and DUI cases in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.  If you are charged with DWI (based on alcohol or prescription drugs) in Wake County, NC call us at 919-585-1486.  Our office is located in Cary, NC and we offer free consultations for those charged with DWI or DUI in and around Raleigh, NC.


Wiley Nickel

Wiley Nickel lives and works in Cary, North Carolina. In 1998, he graduated from Tulane University with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. After college Wiley went to work for Al Gore and travelled with the Vice President as part of his national advance staff. Following the Gore campaign he earned his law degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 2005. While in law school Wiley worked as a law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office where he gained valuable criminal trial experience before taking and passing the California bar exam. His first job out of law school was for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office where he worked as a Deputy District Attorney with a focus on prosecuting DWI offenders. Wiley later joined the Law Offices of Joseph Uremovic where he focused on civil litigation and family law. When the opportunity came to join the Obama campaign in 2008 Wiley jumped at the chance. He spent three years travelling with President Obama as a member of his national advance team. In 2011 Wiley left his work for the White House to return to the practice of law. Wiley devotes the majority of his practice to the areas of criminal law, family law, traffic tickets and DMV issues. The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel was started with the goal of providing the best representation possible for all of his clients. Experienced, Compassionate, Aggressive Criminal Defense While defense attorney Wiley Nickel works as the primary attorney for all of his cases, he does have an associate attorney, a team of investigators, forensic consultants, and support staff to call on to help achieve the best possible result in every case. He limits his case load so that he can focus on providing the best possible legal defense to all of his clients. Every case is a top priority and the goal is to have your case dismissed with a focus on being able to expunge your charges at the end of the process. When he is not working, Wiley is an avid family man, distance runner and golfer. He loves North Carolina college sports and is hoping this is the year for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Wiley is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and California.