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Can you get a DUI on prescription medications?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2020 | DUI

You, like most people, may assume that DUI laws apply only to individuals who drive while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. If this is the case, it may surprise you to learn that you can also receive a DUI for driving while on prescription drugs. 

State lawmakers strive to do everything in their power to prevent impaired drivers from endangering the lives of others on the road. Even though you may take prescription drugs legally and on the recommendation of your physician, an officer can stop and arrest you for driving under the influence if your medications impair your driving in any way. 

The elements of a DUI

To understand why the state can charge and convict you of a DUI for driving with prescription drugs in your system, you must first familiarize yourself with the elements of a DUI. Per FindLaw, the state need only prove the existence of two elements to convict you of a DUI: 

  • You drove a vehicle on a public roadway or you had physical control of the vehicle, as defined by Pennsylvania law; and 
  • At the time of driving or while in control, you were under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol or prescription substances. 

The second element is key to the prosecution’s case. For legal purposes, “under the influence” means that the consumption of a drug, alcohol or prescription medication affected your ability to drive by a noticeable degree. 

Common prescription drug side effects that may impair your driving

All 50 states and the District of Columbia apply the aforementioned rule to drug-related driving charges. Unfortunately, many prescription medications come with side effects that may adversely impact your motor skills, coordination and cognitive function. While you should discuss all possible side effects with your doctor, common ones to expect from prescription drugs are as follows: 

  • Dizziness 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Fainting 
  • Nausea 
  • Slowed movement/reaction time 
  • Inability to pay attention or stay focused 

Though you may react differently to certain drugs than other people, if any drug impairs your concentration, motor skills, level of attention or judgment, the law considers it just as dangerous as alcohol.