The truth about a DUI and cold medicine

If you have been told in the past that it is in fact possible to receive a DUI charge and arrest just because you drank a little bit of cold medicine before sliding behind the wheel of your vehicle, but you just can’t get your head around it being true, you are nowhere near alone.

It IS in fact possible to receive a “driving under the influence” (DUI) charge and arrest just because of the cough medicine that you may have taken before you decided to drive your vehicle. It sounds crazy, but we are going to spend a little bit of time breaking down the details for you and illustrating why you need to be as careful as you can be going forward.


The charge is “Driving Under the Influence”

DUI charges stands for those that are driving while under the influence of “something” – and that something has a definition that is pretty broad. Sometimes the definition includes alcohol, but many times it includes all kinds of other substances that can lead to impairment when it’s time for you to drive your vehicle.

According to Marin County DUI Lawyer Michael Rehm, we are talking about over-the-counter and prescription medicines (like cough medicine), recreational drugs and hard substances, and a number of other chemicals and all natural elements that would potentially and allegedly impair your judgment and lessen your ability to react while you are controlling a vehicle on the road.

The legality of the substance that you take doesn’t matter with a DUI

Though there is no law that explicitly states that you aren’t able to drive your vehicle after you have consumed cough syrup or cough medicine, the “umbrella charge” of driving under the influence may be applied to those that are found to have had their judgment impaired because of the legal substances they ingested.

This is why you need to be so careful about reading all of the labels on the cough syrups (or other medicines) that you are taking – especially if you intend to drive your vehicle after consuming them.

Most all medicines that can potentially cause impairment included information and warnings right on the bottle, giving you a bit of a heads up to stay away from them so that you do not find yourself in any sticky situations.

This information isn’t there just to take up space.


On top of researching whether or not the medicines or substances in your cough medicine are going to have some kind of negative impact on your ability to drive, you’ll also want to better understand the rules, regulations, and laws in your state or local area regarding this issue as well. In most jurisdictions, even possessing a valid prescription of the medication you take is not a defense to a DUI.   Let that sink in for a moment, especially if you are being prescribed any medication from a licensed doctor. A prescription is not a defense, therefore, many individuals who believe the laws relating to DUI’s will never apply to them, like the elderly, are now in danger of receiving a DUI.

Once one understands the law in place, the idea of public transportation and ride-shares seem all the more appealing.

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