DWI investigations involving prescription medication is one of the most common DWI arrest officers make. The drug category CNS Depressants contains many of these prescription drugs, to include anti‐anxiety drugs, anti-psychotic drugs, anti-depressant drugs, barbiturate drugs, non-barbiturate drugs, and combination drugs.
It is reasonable to understand why a driver would feel it is harmless when the officer asks, “Are you taking any medication prescribed by your doctor?” What the driver does not realize is the officer just graduated NHTSA’s ARIDE student course and is ready to put all that training to use. As soon as the driver acknowledges taking medication prescribe by their doctor, the traffic stop goes downhill quickly for the driver.
According to the NHTSA ARIDE student manual, “A person impaired by a CNS Depressant will look like a drunk, talk like a drunk, walk like a drunk, but they may not smell like a drunk.” (2018 revision, session 6, page 14). That one sentence sums up the indicators a driver would display if they were truly under the influence of a prescription CNS Depressant.
The next time you analyze a video of an officer conducting a DWI investigation, even if the driver admits to taking their prescription Xanax one hour before the stop, if the driver does not look like a .12, talk like a .12, and walk like a .12, according to the ARIDE training curriculum, that driver is not under the influence of their prescription CNS Depressant.