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Opioid-Related DUI’s Can Land College Students in Trouble with the Law AND Their School

For many people, the term “DUI” is synonymous with drunk driving, and understandably so. Much of the information put out by advocacy groups and public officials is aimed at informing would-be drunk drivers about the significant risks associated with driving under the influence of alcohol and the potential consequences that offenders may face.

It is important to be aware, however, that most state laws prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, including opioids. For instance, Connecticut’s DUI statute1 makes it a crime for a person to “operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or both.”

An opioid-related DUI arrest can result in significant criminal penalties, including fines, probation, community service, and even jail time. College students, however, may also face sanctions for violations of their school’s code of conduct, in addition to the long-term academic and professional consequences associated with a criminal conviction.

The Opioid Epidemic May Subject Drivers to Greater Scrutiny

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services2 (HHS), opioid abuse is a serious public health issue, and it refers to the current state of affairs as an epidemic. The issue has been highly publicized, and law enforcement officers know people who they pull over may be under the influence of opioids. Some of the drugs that fall into this category include the following:

  • OxyContin
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Percodan
  • Demerol

If a police officer suspects that a person is intoxicated, he or she will generally make an arrest and seek a warrant to test the driver’s blood. If opioids are discovered in a person’s bloodstream, he or she could potentially be accused of DUI.

Even the Legal Use of Prescription Drugs Could Result in a Criminal Case

If you are legitimately taking prescription opioid painkillers for pain management, it is important to understand that a doctor’s prescription is not generally a valid defense to DUI. A prescription makes it legal for you to possess a drug that would be otherwise illegal for you to possess. As with alcohol, just because its legal for you to use the drug does not mean you can drive while using it. For this reason, you should always consult with your doctor and determine whether any drugs you are taking could impair your ability to drive.

Codes of Conduct Generally Prohibit DUI

While there are often significant differences between academic institutions codes of conduct, they almost invariably impose sanctions on students who are caught using drugs or who are accused of DUI. Importantly, the school’s investigation and the state’s investigation are separate; even if the state drops a criminal case due to procedural errors on the part of law enforcement, the school may still proceed. If a student is deemed to have violated the student code of conduct in relation to an opioid-related DUI case, there are a number of potential consequences that a school may impose, including the following:

  • Participation in drug or alcohol counseling or education
  • Formal reprimand
  • Probation
  • The loss of a scholarship
  • Dismissal from a team
  • Loss of financial aid
  • Deferred suspension
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

The consequences of an opioid DUI can last long after any court-imposed or school-imposed sanctions have ended. For example, the existence of a disciplinary or criminal record could affect your ability to get into graduate school and may even affect your ability to secure a job. For this reason, it is important to do everything possible to mitigate the consequences of an opioid-related DUI arrest.

College code violation and criminal defense attorneys understand how stressful it can be for a student to face a criminal case while dealing with potential disciplinary action from his or her school. The experienced attorneys at Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP understand the unique legal needs of students and are committed to protecting the future of individuals facing allegations of misconduct. Call our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers.

1 https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_248.htm#sec_14-227a

2 https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/