Can I Get a DUI for Being Under the Influence of a Prescription Medication?

July 28, 2022


When you hear “driving under the influence (DUI),” it is most often associated with alcohol use. However, alcohol is not the only intoxicating substance that can lead to penalties for drivers. Being under the influence of prescription drugs while behind the wheel can also lead to a DUI charge.

In Pennsylvania, driving under the influence of a controlled substance/drug (DUI-D) is a serious offense. It can be levied for those on legal and illegal prescription medications, as well as some over-the-counter medicines. If a law enforcement officer sees that your driving is affected, or an accident happens while you are under the influence of these medications, you might end up getting charged.

Pennsylvania has three per se DUI levels, and certain drugs on the list result in automatic DUI charges if in the state’s highest tier; this is equal to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than 0.16 percent. This tier has the same penalty if you are caught driving while under the influence of illegal controlled substances, like cocaine, heroin, or marijuana.

A first DUI-D charge might result in a fine and probation, not to mention auto insurance surcharges and rate increases. Subsequent offenses mean higher fines and penalties, license suspensions, ignition interlock installations, and mandatory drug or alcohol treatment programs.

You might feel that you will not be convicted for a DUI-D if you have a valid prescription for your medications, but this will likely not matter. If you do get pulled over on the suspicion of drugged driving, it is quite possible that you will be taken in and charged. Roadside sobriety tests cannot quickly establish drug impairment, and proof has to be obtained through chemical testing and examination by a drug recognition expert at a police station.

Pennsylvania has a zero-tolerance law, so it does not take much for someone to get arrested on a suspected DUI-D. Officers only need to have reasonable suspicion to issue a charge like this. They will rely on signs like elevated or low blood pressure and pulse rates, slurred speech, or enlarged pupils.

What Should I Do if I am Charged With a DUI-D in Pennsylvania?

Being charged with a DUI-D can be frightening and frustrating, but you do have legal options and rights. The first step is to understand how Pennsylvania laws work and to know your rights. It may be possible to get the charge reduced or dropped, and an experienced lawyer can help.

Sometimes, it may be possible to prove that you did not take a prescription drug before driving. Your lawyer might be able to show that the test issued was mishandled or unreliable. Your lawyer can gather evidence that clearly shows you were not under the influence.

West Chester DUI Defense Lawyer at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Can Help You Fight a DUI-D Charge

Fighting a DUI-D charge in Pennsylvania is not an easy task, but our skilled West Chester DUI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes can offer sound legal guidance and advocate on your behalf. For a free consultation, call us at 610-431-7900 or complete our online form. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.

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