‘BUT I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MEDICATION

You would never drink and drive. You are always very careful about that. But the doctor just gave you a new prescription, and nobody warned you that you could become sleepy behind the wheel of a car. Next thing you know, a police officer noticed your erratic driving, and now you are charged with DUI.

What can happen to you, and what can you do?

It may come as a surprise, but the fact that you were on a prescription is no defense in itself to a DUI. Illinois law prohibits driving under the influence of any drug that renders a person incapable of safely driving even if you are legally entitled to use that drug. (625 ILCS 5/11-501.) If convicted, you may be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and one year in jail. In addition, the Secretary of State may suspend your driver’s license.

While not a defense, driving under the influence of medication can be a tricky charge for the state to prove. The state must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you were 1) driving and 2) under the influence of a prescription drug. The state may have trouble proving the first element, the driving, for example, if you were not in your car when the police arrived. Someone must be able to testify in court that you were behind the wheel.

Proving the second element, that you were under the influence, can be much more problematic for the State than with an alcohol-related DUI. If you had been drinking, you might have taken the breathalyzer or the field sobriety tests, and the police are generally more familiar with the signs of drunk driving. But for driving under prescription medication, there are no hard and fast tests. Seemingly erratic behavior may be caused by something other than the medication, such as the reason you needed the medication in the first place.

Many officers are much less familiar with prescription cases and lack the expertise to determine whether the medication actually caused your bad driving. Too many attorneys prematurely plea out these cases when a real issue exists as to the effects of the medication.

An experienced attorney can also investigate other possible defenses. Were you taking the medication in the manner prescribed? Were you given any warnings about the effect of the medication? Furthermore, the police must have probable cause to stop you. Did you disobey a traffic regulation? If you were just randomly pulled over, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to throw out your arrest.

If you have questions about your DUI or other criminal or traffic matters, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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