Benzodiazepines are commonly used anti-anxiety medications

Although using benzos without a doctor’s prescription isn’t illegal, arrests for driving under the influence of benzodiazepines are widespread. Any driver suspected of driving while impaired by benzodiazepine usage should be aware of their legal rights and consult with a DUI defense attorney to avoid conviction.

This article discusses the side effects of benzodiazepines and how to defend yourself if you’re charged with a DUI due to a false blood alcohol concentration (BAC) result caused by benzo medications. Let’s dig in!

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, also called “benzos,” are types of widely used psychotropic medications for severe anxiety treatments. The medical community generally considers this drug safe and effective for short-term usage. Furthermore, benzodiazepines reduce the quantity of gamma-aminobutyric acid and various other neurotransmitters in the nervous system.

However, using these anti-anxiety drugs for an extended time or recreationally might result in severe side effects and addiction concerns. Most people recreationally combine benzodiazepine drugs with opioids to get a strong high. Overuse can raise the likelihood of addiction and the onset of withdrawal symptoms like drowsiness, lethargy, depression, and memory loss.

Drugs containing benzodiazepine include:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Serepax
  • Magadan
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan

Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, being anti-anxiety medications, aid in anxiety relaxation. However, these drugs have several adverse effects, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Impaired thinking
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Loss of coordination

Changes in appearance and behavior that impact relationships and activities are nonspecific signs of prolonged usage or dependency. Chronic benzodiazepine abuse can result in the following symptoms, which replicate many of the reasons for using these drugs in the first place:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Headaches
  • Weakness

Overusing these drugs means anxiety problems are left unchanged.

Is it Illegal to Drive on Benzodiazepines?

When overused, these drugs impair your driving ability. Since benzo medications can cause driving impairment, law enforcement officers and prosecutors can convict you of driving under the influence of drugs, and charges may arise.

How will a police officer detect drug impairment? Read on.

How Law Enforcement Determine if You’re Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

  • Blood Test

Blood tests are often the most accurate way of determining the amount of drugs or alcohol in an individual’s body. Nonetheless, a competent defense attorney may often find methods to dispute blood test findings.

Blood samples that aren’t adequately stored and are left for an extended period before the examination may coagulate or decompose, resulting in a misleading high reading.

In other situations, the defense may claim that, despite the individual’s BAC being high when tested, it was below the legal limit while the person was driving (the rising-blood-alcohol defense).

  • Urine Test

A standard benzodiazepine urine test can identify the drug via its breakdown products (metabolites). However, this test is often complicated. A positive test result indicates a detection of a benzo metabolite in your urine at the time of the sample collection.

One of the reasons experts seldom use urine tests is because they’re less reliable than blood or breath tests. Nearly identical methods are used to analyze blood and urine samples for these drugs. Therefore, the readings are susceptible to similar laboratory mistakes.

A motorist driving under the influence of drugs

Do Breathalyzers Detect Benzodiazepines?

An examination of breath gas using a “breathalyzer” (which the police may undertake on the spot) yields only an indirectly determined BAC value. The result is based on how much substance is in the exhaled air, not the amount in the blood.

Therefore, most breathalyzer tests don’t determine the presence of benzodiazepine use. However, this result doesn’t mean you can’t be convicted.

Swerving, speeding, or breaching driving restrictions could all be considered plausible causes of impairment. In other circumstances, an officer will examine a person’s physical appearance to determine whether or not they were driving under the influence of drugs.

Cops check for symptoms including dilated pupils, awkward speech, or loss of balance. Furthermore, officers may request that you do field sobriety tests to assess your impairment level.

If the suspicions still hold, drug recognition experts could conduct a blood or urine test. Once the results are positive, the individual is arrested.

Penalties in South Carolina for DUI

The repercussions of a drugged driving conviction in South Carolina vary depending on the circumstances. However, in general, a DUI can result in the following penalties:

  • First Offense

A first DUI conviction is usually punishable by 48 hours to 30 days in jail, $400 in penalties, and a six-month license suspension.

  • Second Offense

For a second DUI within ten years, the offender faces five days to one year in jail, penalties ranging from $2,100 to $5,100, and a two-year ignition interlock device (IID) requirement.

  • Third Offense

A third DUI within ten years often results in 60 days to five years in jail, penalties ranging from $3,800 to $6,300, and a three- or four-year IID requirement.

How to Defend Yourself Against Benzodiazepines-Related DUI Charges

You aren’t alone if you’ve been accused of benzo-related impaired driving. Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine prescription medication, is the most widely prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States, a position it has maintained since 2005.

According to AL.com, over 48.5 million people had prescriptions for Alprazolam in 2013 alone, and in several states, DUI criminal charges involving these drugs have overtaken marijuana-related ones.

With a professional attorney, you can wiggle your way out of a Xanax DUI case, especially if you’re innocent or if it’s your first charge.

If you’re arrested for DUI based on benzodiazepine drug use, you have several options for defending yourself. One major defense line is that the police violated your rights by stopping your motor vehicle or obtaining a toxicological sample from you. A law enforcement officer can’t stop you or force you to submit to drug testing without reason.

Benzos are odorless, unlike alcohol. Therefore, cops can’t claim they smelt a substance on you to justify a drug test (unless you were also under the influence of alcohol). If the police officers can’t demonstrate that they had probable cause to stop your automobile or force you to submit to testing, any evidence gathered as part of an unlawful search may be inadmissible in court.

Additionally, the prosecutor must prove that you were too drunk to drive. If you take anti-anxiety prescription medications, having benzodiazepine drugs in your system doesn’t necessarily suggest you were legally impaired, warranting penalties.

You’re free unless the prosecutor shows that you broke DUI laws and drove while being excessively impaired by a drug or alcohol, endangering you and others.

If you’re charged in court with a Xanax DUI in South Carolina, consult an attorney for legal counsel on your criminal defense options against penalties.

A driver opening a bottle of beer in a car

Conclusion

Most breath tests can’t detect blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings with Xanax. However, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. If a police officer, through your actions, has reason to suspect that you’re driving under the influence, they can arrest you for further testing.

If you’re wrongfully arrested for driving under the influence of benzodiazepines, it doesn’t necessarily mean jail time is inevitable. Although hiring a competent criminal defense attorney is crucial when charged with DUI,¬†ensure you look for a law firm offering free consultation to enable you discuss possible defense strategies before hiring a drunk driving attorney.

 

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