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Florida Litigation Attorneys
By Brian Silber
DUI Defense Against Xanax, Lexapro, and Other Meds:
As a DUI attorney in Fort Lauderdale, I can tell you that DUI arrests based on Xanax, Lexapro, and other anti-anxiety medications are quite common. For those who are unfamiliar, medications like Xanax and Lexapro are commonly prescribed to people who legitimately suffer from anxiety disorders. Just because there are people that abuse medications like Xanax , does not mean that everyone who takes Xanax is a criminal. In fact, medications like Xanax and Lexapro are life-saving drugs that give many people the ability to live a normal life.
That said, a person should not get behind the wheel of a car after taking Xanax, especially if taken in combination with other medications like Lexapro and certainly not in combination with alcohol.
How to Defend Against a DUI Based on Xanax, Lexapro or Other Anti-Anxiety Medications
The art of DUI defense varies from case to case. Even though DUI charges all come down to the same basic legal components, the facts that transpire in any one case make it different from all others. As a result, the outcomes can be different.
In some cases, even though the person was clearly drunk, intoxicated, or otherwise under the influence, the whole case can get dismissed by a judge simply because the police conducted an illegal traffic stop. In other cases, crucial evidence may be suppressed because police conducted an illegal search and seizure. In yet other cases, breath test results can get thrown out because police failed to follow proper procedures when administering a breath test. When evidence is suppressed by a judge, it can have a fatal impact on the Prosecution’s case.
However, cases that involve prescription medications like Xanax and Lexapro are different.
In almost every one of these cases a person is either pulled over for driving erratically or they are arrested after they get into a car accident. To the person taking Xanax or Lexapro, it does not appear as though they are intoxicated – when in reality they are.
This is where police incompetence comes in.
In almost every single DUI report I have read, which are written by police following a DUI arrest, cops write the same boiler plate “BS” in almost EVERY case. It usually goes something like this:
“Upon approaching the suspect I detected an odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from their person, the suspect also had red, bloodshot, watery eyes, a slurred speech, and was unsteady on his/her feet.”
In some cases, a cop may throw in “extras” for good measure by writing things such as, “Suspect leaned on car door for support” or “When asked for license and registration, suspect fumbled through her purse and presented her library card.” (PS: after you are arrested, police inventory your belongings while you sit alone, handcuffed in the back of their patrol car, so YES, they will eventually learn there is a library card in your purse. That is why it is a good lie… it has an element that makes it believable, because how else would a cop know there is library card, gym card, or a fill-in-the-blank-whatever-card in someone’s purse? On the surface it is believable. In reality, it is classic slight of hand that makes for a good story until you see the whole picture and view it context.)
The bottom line is that police resort to “creative report writing” so frequently that they lose credibility. I admit it – I used to be a person who believed what police said, until I started practicing law. By the time you have read your fourth DUI report and see how they are all written the SAME EXACT WAY, it is kind of hard to turn the other way and not ask questions.
In fact, if creative report writing only happened sporadically to bolster an otherwise legitimate arrest, no one would care or say anything. However, what was once used to bolster a report has now become the norm far too frequently.
This is where a good defense comes in for people facing DUI based on Xanax, Lexapro, or other anti-anxiety medications.
Despite their efforts to the contrary, creative report writing proves a police officer lacks credibility. An officer that lies about one thing to bolster his/her report, will lie about other things to bolster his/her report.
For instance, if you have been arrested for DUI after taking Xanax or Lexapro, odds are you never had anything to drink. In fact, there are many cases where people in your same shoes have been sat down by police to take a breath test and then blow 0.00 alcohol results.
When this occurs, the cop who claimed you smelled of alcohol has some serious explaining to do. After all, how does a person smell of alcohol yet blow a 0.00 on their breath test? This happens. I have seen it.
So, how is this used? How does proving a police officer lacks credibility help?
Questions of credibility can have many applications. In a motion to suppress, an officer who exaggerates his/her observations of potential impairment by falsely claiming he/she smelled alcohol is the same kind of officer who will exaggerate his/her description of a person’s driving pattern to justify a traffic stop. In trial, this same type of officer will exaggerate a person’s performance on field sobriety tests to justify an arrest.
If the whole reason why the police pulled you over in the first place was due to erratic driving, how do we know that the driving really was erratic? How do we know that isn’t bolstered as well? Even if the driving was somewhat erratic, to what extent was it exaggerated to make it sound like you were intoxicated?
If the reason why you were arrested was a “totality of the circumstances” (PS: another favorite cop term) that include the same cop’s description of your driving pattern, description of how you acted when asked for license and registration, how you stood, how you talked, how you walked, how you performed on field sobriety exercises, then the whole thing comes into question.
In criminal law, QUESTION is REASONABLE DOUBT.
Drivers make erratic movements on the roadway ALL the time for a plethora of non-criminal reasons… you could be distracted by texting on your cell phone, your two year old could have thrown a toy at your head, or maybe you are exhausted after a 14 hour work day and dosed off. While none of those reasons justify causing a car accident, they negate the claim that you were impaired by alcohol or drugs – which is the ultimate question in a DUI case.
Defending someone facing DUI charges after taking Xanax, Lexapro or any other prescription medication can often times come down to a question of credibility. The best DUI attorneys will not only review your case for the typical defenses, such as a motion to suppress for unlawful traffic stop or a motion to suppress breath test results, but he/she will look for the inconsistencies in the police officer’s story. The best DUI attorneys will bring a lying or bolstering police officer into focus and call him/her out for what they are.
Sometimes an entire case can be won or lost on the credibility of a single witness. Uncovering the exaggerations, lies, and inconsistencies of the prosecution’s witnesses is key to any successful DUI defense