Cold season is one of the most difficult times for people everywhere, especially if you have to drive. Not only can your cold leave you feeling thick-headed and dull your reflexes, cold medications can actually lead to a charge of "operating a vehicle while impaired."
Most people think of drunk driving laws as something that apply strictly to alcohol or maybe alcohol and illegal drugs, but the laws in almost all states are intentionally broadly-worded in order to be inclusive of anything that could make someone unsafe to operate a motor vehicle. That includes your NyQuil or Mucinex if it happens to affect you that strongly.
Common side effects of cold medication include drowsiness, impaired concentration, dizziness and sleepiness. That could easily lead you to make a mistake while driving that gets you pulled over.
So how do you handle a traffic stop if the officer seems to be suspicious that you are impaired?
-- First, don't admit to anything. You may, in fact, look like you've been drinking to the officer, especially if your eyes and nose are red. However, this isn't the time to start making excuses. You could end up accidentally incriminating yourself or saying something that will lead to questions you don't want to answer.
Suggesting that your cold is making it hard for you to concentrate, for example, could lead the officer to ask if you took cold medication, when he or she ordinarily might not think about it.
-- Second, don't lie. Keep in mind that you have always have your Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate yourself, but lying to a police officer in the course of an investigation is a crime in its own right.
If the officer does ask if you have taken any medications, the smartest thing you can do is decline to answer without the advice of your attorney.
-- Be as polite as possible. If you are arrested on suspicion of OVI, remain calm and remember to remain silent until you speak with your attorney.
Since the penalties for OVI in Ohio are severe, you don't ever want to plead guilty without speaking to a defense attorney first. A defense attorney can challenge the basis, or probable cause, behind both the traffic stop and the arrest.
For more information on how we approach OVI cases, please see our blog.