When most people think of operating a vehicle while under the influence, they associate the charge with drunk drivers. However, in some circumstances, a driver can be issued an OWI without having had a drop of alcohol.
Before getting behind the wheel of a car, it's important to make sure you're sober in more than one way.
Alcohol is an impairing substance that is legal to consume for those who are 21 years or older. However, it's not the only legal substance that can impair your mind.
Many medications -- both prescription and over-the-counter -- have dangerous side effects that can cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, lack of focus, blurred vision and other debilitating symptoms. Warning labels on these types of medications advise consumers not to operate heavy machinery.
Determining an OWI
If your driving presents a police officer with reasonable suspicion that you may be under the influence of an impairing substance, you could be pulled over.
To test whether your judgment is impaired, an officer may ask whether you have been drinking alcohol or using any type of drug. Whereas a breathalyzer can be used to determine if a person is too drunk to drive, other methods can be used to determine if another substance has impaired a driver's judgment.
Most police officers will ask the driver to complete a field sobriety test, such as:
- Walking in a straight line
- Standing on one foot
- Fingertip to nose
Penalties for an OWI
OWI charges can result in hefty penalties, such as license revocation, costly fines and jail time. Because impaired judgment could make you liable for any injuries or damages caused in a crash, it's a good idea to speak with a professional to determine the validity of a police officer's report if you are facing charges.