A Rockstar, Vehicular Manslaughter, and Prescription Pills
The recent arrest of Todd Harrell for vehicular manslaughter can teach us valuable lessons. Harrell, the bassist for the band Three Doors Down, was arrested in Nashville following an accident resulting in the death of a man in another vehicle. During the police investigation, Harrell failed field sobriety tests, admitted to drinking, admitted to taking the painkiller Lortab and the anti-depressant Xanex, and was found in possession of several other pills in his vehicle.
Unfortunately, this is not just the behavior of an out of control rock star. DWI attorneys see this kind of behavior on a weekly basis. Fortunately, most of these kinds of cases do not result in the death of another motorist, but the danger is certainly present when pills and alcohol are mixed. Many times people will believe that they were justified to take the pills and then drive because they had a prescription for the medication. While the prescription makes it legal to possess and consume the pills, the prescription does not allow a person to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by even prescription drugs. This becomes especially evident when alcohol begins to be mixed with the drugs and the effects of both the prescription pills and the alcohol are amplified in combination.
There is no legal limit for the amount of a prescription medication a person is allowed to consume prior to operating a motor vehicle. If the DWI arrest is based solely on the consumption of the prescription medication then prosecutors will have a difficult time proving their case in all but extreme circumstances. The problem is that there are rarely DWI arrests for prescription pills when alcohol is not involved. Even one or two beers consumed in combination with a prescription drug, whether by accident or intentionally, can result in a person that is impaired.
Source: USA Today, “Todd Harrell Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter, Band Cancels Dates,” Brian Mansfield, April 22, 2013.
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