According to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, 131 million adults in the U.S. take prescription medications. As people grow older, they take more prescription drugs to treat a variety of health conditions. With so many adults taking legally prescribed drugs in the nation, you might be surprised to learn that you can be charged with a DUI for driving while impaired by your prescription medications in Pennsylvania. In fact, the penalties you might face for driving under the influence of prescription medications could be worse than the penalties you might face for having a few drinks before driving.
If you are facing drugged DUI charges for driving with prescription drugs in your system, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. An attorney can help you to fight the charges against you and potentially minimize the penalties. Police officers frequently make mistakes when they stop people and conduct investigations, and identifying and challenging these errors could result in a dismissal or reduction of your charges. Here is some information about DUIs on prescription drugs in Pennsylvania.
Driving under the influence of prescription drugs
Pennsylvania’s drugged driving laws are found in 75 P.S.CS 3802(d). Under this statute, you can be charged with a DUI when you drive, operate, or have actual physical control of a vehicle while you are impaired by a drug or a combination of drugs and alcohol. This prohibition includes many different substances, including some prescribed medications.
If you take a Schedule II or Schedule III prescription medication without a valid prescription, you can also be charged under Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance law in 75 Pa.C.S. 3802(d)(1). Under this section, you can be charged with a drugged DUI if you have any amount of a non-prescribed Schedule I, Schedule II, or Schedule III drug in your system or a metabolite regardless of whether or not you are impaired.
If you do have a valid prescription for a drug found in your system, it is not a defense to an impairment drugged DUI. Instead, the prosecutor will only be required to prove that you were impaired while you drove, operated, or had actual physical control over your vehicle. The prosecutor may introduce testimony from a drug recognition expert to try to secure a conviction.
What are the penalties for a prescription drug DUI?
While Pennsylvania has three penalty tiers for alcohol DUIs based on the BAC of the drivers within two hours of driving, all people who are charged with drugged driving will automatically face the harshest penalties for the highest BAC DUI offense.
For a first offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor on your record
- Jail from three days up to six months
- Fine from $1,000 to $5,000
- Alcohol highway safety school
- Substance abuse screening and treatment if ordered
- 12-month suspension of your driving privileges
For alcohol, these penalties are reserved for people whose BAC tests at 0.16% or higher. This means that you could face the same charges for driving while impaired by your prescription medications as someone who drank large quantities of alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
Defenses to a prescription drug DUI
If you are facing a prescription drug DUI, your criminal defense lawyer will review the evidence to identify the defenses that might be available to you.
Some of the potential defenses might include the following:
- There was no reasonable suspicion for the officer to stop your car.
- A DUI checkpoint was set up and run incorrectly.
- The roadside tests were administered improperly.
- The officer did not have probable cause to support your arrest.
- The officer did not obtain your consent or a warrant to seize your blood.
- Your blood was drawn, stored, handled, or transported improperly.
- The lab tests were not conducted properly.
- Metabolites in your system did not indicate impairment.
- Your driving was not impaired.
Your attorney will also look for inaccuracies in the police report, review any video evidence of the roadside tests, and review the chain of custody information for your blood sample. He or she might also talk to an expert to review the analysis of your blood sample and file evidentiary motions to challenge any evidence that was gathered illegally.
If you do not have a strong defense available, your attorney might still be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to secure a favorable plea offer to a lesser charge or sentence.
Get help from a DUI attorney near me
One of the first things you should do after being charged with a DUI for prescription drugs is to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA. Your lawyer can help you to understand the options that might be available to you and prepare defenses against your charges. Many people are able to safely drive their vehicles even though they take prescription medications by being careful with the timing. Your attorney can work to secure the most favorable outcome possible for your case. Contact DiCindio Law today at (610) 430-3535.