Criminal Defense

The Impact of Cough and Cold Medicine on DUI Charges

October 17, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  DUI  
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DUI on Cough Syrup? Really?

Cold and flu season is a challenging time for many, but luckily, over-the-counter cough and cold medicine can provide relief from symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and congestion. However, it’s essential to be aware of the potential side effects of these medications, as they can impair your ability to drive safely and even lead to DUI charges. In this article, we will explore the relationship between cough and cold medicine and DUI offenses, the ingredients that can cause negative side effects, and the potential consequences of driving under the influence of these medications.

Understanding DUI Offenses

To comprehend the connection between cough and cold medicine and DUI charges, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what constitutes a DUI offense. DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” typically associated with operating a vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, the law is not limited to alcohol impairment alone. It aims to prevent driving while under the influence of any substance that can impair your ability to drive safely, including drugs.

If state prosecutors can prove that you were driving while impaired by drugs, you may be found guilty of driving under the influence.

Side Effects of Cough and Cold Medicine

Cough and cold medicines can contain various ingredients that may cause negative side effects, impairing your judgment and motor skills. It’s essential to be aware of these potential effects to make informed decisions before getting behind the wheel after taking these medications.

Drowsiness and Impaired Motor Skills

One common side effect of cough and cold medicine is drowsiness. Ingredients such as diphenhydramine are known to induce drowsiness, affecting your ability to concentrate and react quickly while driving. Drowsiness can significantly impair your motor skills, making it dangerous to operate a vehicle.

Dizziness and Lack of Coordination

Another potential side effect of cough and cold medicine is dizziness. Ingredients like guaifenesin, an expectorant commonly found in cough medicines, can lead to dizziness, headaches, nausea, and stomach upset. This dizziness can affect your coordination and balance, making it unsafe to operate a vehicle.

Confusion and Poor Concentration

Certain cough and cold medications may also cause confusion and poor concentration. These side effects can negatively impact your ability to make quick decisions and respond appropriately to traffic situations, increasing the risk of accidents while driving.

The Challenge of Proving Drug Impairment

Unlike alcohol impairment, proving drug impairment in a DUI case can be more challenging. With alcohol, objective tests such as blood, breath, and urine tests can determine whether a driver is above the legal limit. However, drug impairment is more subjective, requiring law enforcement officers to recognize clear signs of drug impairment.

Taking Precautions Before Driving

To avoid potential DUI charges and ensure your safety on the road, it’s crucial to take precautions when taking cough and cold medicine. Here are some essential steps to consider:

Read Medication Labels and Know the Side Effects

Before taking any medication, including over-the-counter cough and cold medicine, it’s essential to read the labels carefully. Familiarize yourself with the active ingredients and potential side effects. Pay particular attention to warnings regarding drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired judgment.

Test Medication Effects in Safe Environments

If you are unsure how a particular cough or cold medicine will affect you, it is wise to test its effects in a safe environment before driving. Consider taking the medication when you have no plans to drive or when you can arrange alternative transportation. This allows you to evaluate how the medication affects your alertness, coordination, and overall ability to drive safely.

Consult a Healthcare Professional

If you have concerns about potential side effects or interactions with other medications you are taking, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on the safety of driving while using cough and cold medicine, considering your specific circumstances and medical history.

Building a Strong Defense

If you find yourself facing a DUI charge related to cough and cold medicine, it is vital to seek legal representation from an experienced DUI defense attorney. They can help you navigate the legal process, build a strong defense, and ensure that your rights are protected.

An experienced attorney will examine the circumstances surrounding your case, assess the evidence against you, and explore potential defenses. They may challenge the validity of the drug impairment assessment, question the accuracy of the tests conducted, or argue that the medication’s side effects were not the primary cause of impairment.


While over-the-counter cough and cold medicine can provide relief from symptoms, it’s essential to be aware of the potential side effects that can impair your ability to drive safely. Driving under the influence of cough and cold medicine can lead to DUI charges, with potential penalties including fines, jail time, and license suspensions. By understanding the side effects of these medications, taking precautions before driving, and seeking legal representation when necessary, you can protect yourself from the negative consequences associated with DUI offenses. Stay informed, prioritize safety, and make responsible decisions to ensure your well-being and the safety of others on the road.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

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