Attorney Annie Peterson says that cases of driving under the influence of prescription drugs are on the rise in Montana. According to her, she has prosecuted over 15 cases in the last two years.

The reason for this could be that many people do not realize how the medication affects them, and are not used to the prescription drug yet, according to MHP drug recognition expert Sgt. Kurt Sager.

Some drugs act just like alcohol resulting in slurred speech and slowed reaction time, according to Sager. Anti-depressants are one such class of drugs, while painkillers too can slow down brain activity. Some medications given to induce sleep, like Lunesta and Ambien, and can make a driver fall asleep at the wheel. When more than one medication at a time is taken, the effect can be like consuming five or six shots of hard alcohol or 12 pack of beer, according to Sager.

It is advisable for people to tell the doctor and the pharmacist about all the medications they are currently on, and talk to the doctor about drug interactions and side effects of any new prescription given. When a person begins to feel different than usual, he or she should not drive at that point, and should call a doctor immediately, according to Sager. Montana DUI attorneys say that the problem needs to be addressed urgently where laws need to be made clearer.

Bill to allow restricted use driving rejected by senate

After a bill that would give restricted use driving permits to people convicted of DUI was opposed by Montana County Attorneys Association and Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Senate rejected the bill in a 24-23 vote. However, it had cleared preliminary voting by 36 – 14 just the previous day, according to Montana DUI attorneys.

The bill would grant a restricted use driving permit to people who met certain conditions, which included being a resident of Montana for five consecutive years and not having any traffic violation or crime associated with alcohol abuse or drugs.

The Bill 93 was introduced by Sen. Pat Connell, who said that he would try to revive the bill again next week. Such a permit would allow people to drive to work and back, and to keep medical appointments or to drop off children to school, according to Connell.

Hamilton man charged with DUI and misdemeanor for sixth time

Charles H. Newgard, a 51 year old man faces charges of felony DUI and misdemeanor for the sixth time.

A police officer stopped his vehicle on Lyndale Street in Hamilton after noticing that the vehicle did not have any tail lights. The officer also noted that Newgard’s eyes were bloodshot and he was moving in a lethargic manner.

According to police reports, the officer could smell alcohol and conducted sobriety tests which the defendant failed to clear. Newgard was not able to stand for any length of time, but the officer did not administer the one leg stand, walk or turn tests since the accused said he was disabled.

The officer said that the defendant admitted he had had two cocktails and a hydrocodone on the same day. Newgard refused to give a blood sample; however, the officer obtained a search warrant and sent the sample to the lab.

Six DUIs and it is still a misdemeanor? How much sense does that make?