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What Are Prescription Medication DUI Laws In Illinois?

In Illinois, prescription drugs are treated a little bit differently as opposed to what most people would think of as street drugs. For example, you can be charged with driving under the influence of drugs, driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs, or with having any amount of a controlled substance or drug in your blood or urine.

First, the background on the drug driving offense is important. For driving under the influence of drugs, driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs, the prosecutor must prove both impairment and unsafe driving.

Whereas the offense of having any amount of a controlled substance in your breath, blood, or urine, that does not require proof of impairment; that offense only requires them to prove that the substance was in your body. It is a strict liability offense and some people call it a Zero Tolerance offense because the law does not differentiate between the amounts of that drug in your system. In other words, a blood or a urine test could show that you have this trace amount of a drug in your system and it would be enough. You may have consumed that drug or substance hours or days prior, but it does not matter. If they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was in your system, you will be found guilty, even if you are not “high” or under the influence of that drug.

Prescription drugs can also be classified as a controlled substance by statute. In Illinois, it is not illegal to drive with a lawfully prescribed drug in your system so long as you are not impaired and not driving unsafely. This is an exception to that strict liability or zero tolerance charge mentioned earlier. However, if you are not permitted to ingest the drug, you could still be found guilty. The person charged, in other words, the defendant; they have the burden to produce a legitimate prescription or to show proof that they are entitled to consume that medication. This is called an affirmative defense. However, you could still be found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs, even if you have a valid prescription, if you are found to be impaired or driving unsafely.

Do A Lot of DUI Cases Involve Prescription Medication in Illinois?

I have represented many people in DUIs based on prescription medications. But, for the most part, when people think of a DUI case, they think of drunk driving caused by consumption of alcohol. Alcohol based DUIs still form a great majority of DUI arrests overall. That is probably because alcohol is the number one intoxicating substance consumed in the United States, plus it is legal and it is easy to purchase. Although I have significant experience handling DUIs based on prescription drugs, alcohol based DUIs will probably always be the highest percentage of cases we represent.

Donald N. Macneil, Esq.

Get your questions answered - Call now for FREE case evaluation (815) 290-9170.

Are The Numbers Of Prescription Medication DUI Cases On The Rise In Illinois?

Absolutely. The number of arrests for DUIs based on prescription drugs has been rising and the number of people that I represent in those types of case has risen as well. The number of people being prescribed medications is increasing at an alarming rate. The drugs that we are concerned about for DUIs are those substances that could potentially be intoxicating, such as painkillers, antianxiety meds or sleep aid medications. The prescriptions for those drugs are rising faster than any other type of medications, and so I would expect the number of prescription drug based DUIs to keep increasing as well.

Are People Aware That Prescription Medication Can Be The Cause For DUI Charges?

Many people assume that if you were prescribed a medication by a doctor, you cannot be held accountable for DUI charges based on consuming those pills. This is a common misconception which is 100% incorrect. As we have discussed, possessing a prescription for medication is not an absolute defense to driving under the influence. If a police officer makes an arrest, or if a police officer makes a traffic stop because there is a traffic infraction or some sort of erratic driving and they suspect that the individual might be intoxicated, but there is no odor of alcohol, then they definitely are going to look for prescription medications or some other drug.

Is There A Typical Demographic For A Suspect Involved In Prescription Medication DUI?

I do not think so. For a DUI based on prescription drugs, the demographics are probably roughly the same as alcohol based DUIs. There is no significant group that makes up a higher percentage of arrests. DUI is just one type of criminal offense that really does not discriminate whatsoever.

What Are The Most Common Prescription Medications Involved In DUI Cases?

The most common prescription drugs for these types of DUI arrests are the pain management, anti-anxiety, sleeping aids, and anti-depression drugs. For example, for pain medications, you are going to see Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, those are the biggest. Some people refer to them by their brand names like Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Narco, Lortab. The anti-anxiety and the anti-depression drugs, those are technically what they refer to as selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors and sometimes, they shorten it SSRIs. There are literally dozens of those types, but the most prescribed ones that I see frequently are Xanax, Lexapro, Zoloft and Paxil. As far as sleeping medications, the big three are Ambien, Sonata and Lunesca. These are really just a few of the most popular ones. There are lots more and actually any prescription medication that has an intoxicating effect could form the basis for a drug based DUI.

For more information on Prescription Drug DUI Laws In Illinois, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 290-9170 today.

Donald N. Macneil, Esq.

Get your questions answered - Call now for FREE case evaluation (815) 290-9170.

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