Lake County Teacher Arrested for DUI While Driving to School

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

On the morning of March 3, 2014, kindergarten teacher Monica Jenkins was arrested for a suspected DUI in Lake County, Florida after driving erratically and slamming into a police car at least twice.  The Lake County teacher, who teaches at Sorrento Elementary, was seen driving in the wrong lane, almost hitting a number of cars and illegally passing a stopped school bus picking up school children.  According to police reports, a deputy had to block the roadway to keep her from driving further into oncoming traffic when she rammed his car at least twice.  Jenkins allegedly told officers that she was on her way to work after dropping of her children at school and didn’t remember any of it.  A prescription bottle of oxycodone was found in Jenkins’s vehicle and Jenkins did admit to taking the drug the night before and that morning.  Jenkins was arrested on a number of charges including DUI and aggravated assault on a police officer.  Even though she was legally prescribed the oxycodone, it appeared that she had taken a month’s worth in just a week.  She is currently on unpaid leave from the Lake County School District awaiting the outcome of this criminal matter.

Driving under the influence of a prescription drug, even one that has properly been prescribed by a doctor, while operating a vehicle is the same charge as driving drunk or driving under the influence of an illegal drug.  It is no excuse that the driver did not know what their reaction to the prescription would be or that they were taking it according to doctor’s orders.  If a prescription drug causes impairment while driving, the driver has the duty to stop driving immediately.

While it is common to hear about cases involving narcotic drugs or controlled substances when it comes to DUI cases, there are many other types of drugs out there that can cause impairment, even those that normally aren’t abused.  Examples of prescription and over the counter drugs that can cause impairment while driving includes allergy medication, antidepressants, cold medication and over the counter sleep aids.  These drugs are not suspected by most to cause impairment by many to the point where driving after taking them could be considered illegal.  However, if the ability to safely drive is compromised, the result can still be a DUI. 

In Florida, a person is considered guilty of a DUI if there is an impairment of normal facilities while driving.  This means that if a driver has difficulty with things such as properly seeing, hearing, being able to act in an emergency, communicating or any number of things that are evidence of proper functioning, that driver could be considered to be under the influence for the purposes of a DUI charge.  The same implied consent laws come into effect when it comes to chemical testing for the presence of drugs as with alcohol, although a positive drug test alone may not be enough to maintain a conviction.  Unlike with alcohol, where presence in the system can be relatively accurately determined, drugs can show up in tests even weeks after use.   Because of this, there has to be other evidence of impairment as well, such as the erratic and dangerous driving in Jenkins’s case.