When you have drugs in a motor vehicle, police officers might arrest you if they conduct a traffic stop. The person who owns the vehicle or driving it usually has responsibility for what police officers find in the vehicle.
Many people assume that if what they have in their vehicle is a prescription medication and not a prohibited drug like methamphetamine or cocaine that their legal risks for transporting that medication will be minimal. However, there are at least two distinct situations in which police officers would have justification to arrest you based solely on your possession of a prescription medication in your vehicle.
When you seem under the influence
Impaired driving can easily involve legally prescribed medication, not just alcohol or recreational drugs. Even if a doctor prescribed a medication to you, that does not necessarily mean you can legally drive after taking the medication.
Drugs ranging from muscle relaxants and pain relievers to cold medications and certain psychiatric drugs can affect people’s driving ability. If an officer pulls you over because they think you demonstrated impaired skill at the wheel, the fact that the only substance in your system is a prescription medication won’t prevent them from charging you with a criminal offense. Impaired driving charges are possible even when you legally use a prescription as recommended by your doctor.
When it isn’t your prescription
In theory, you can help friends and family by running errands for them when they have health issues. Picking up your sister’s prescription from the pharmacy or dropping medication off to your spouse at the office because they forgot it both seem like very nice things to do.
However, unless the medication is still sealed in the packaging provided by the pharmacy, your possession of a controlled substance that belongs to someone else might lead to criminal charges. Even if the other person is a family member, police officers may not believe you when you claim to just want to help them. They might suspect you of stealing the medication or having purchased it for personal use.
Learning about why police could charge you with a crime because you have a prescription medication in your vehicle could help you avoid common mistakes that lead to criminal drug charges.