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What Are Prescription Medication DUI Laws In Illinois?


An Illinois driving under the influence charge does not require the presence of alcohol. 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 in Illinois, 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 in Illinois, 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 driving under the influence of that drug in Illinois.

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 in Illinois, 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 in Illinois, they think of driving under the influence 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 Illinois driving under the influence charges 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 driving under the influence arrests based on prescription drugs has been rising and the number of people that I represent in those types of the 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 Illinois driving under the influence arrests 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 an Illinois driving under the influence charge 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.

Making a mistake, whether it’s driving after a couple of drinks or after taking a prescribed medication, doesn’t make you a bad person and doesn’t mean you deserve to live with a stigma of an Illinois driving under the influence conviction for the rest of your life. Don’t give up and don’t attempt to negotiate with the prosecuting attorneys all on your own. You will not regret the time you spent finding an experienced, qualified attorney to represent you in Illinois or Indiana. All your rights will be protected and your reputation in the community will be preserved. Don’t just accept whichever plea agreement is thrown out to you by the state. Get to a knowledgeable attorney to look out for your legal interests and your future.

At The MacNeil Firm, we provide you with customized representation: immediate responses to your questions, open, honest, and prompt communication, passion, sensitivity, compassion, and respect during this very difficult and often embarrassing time. You’ll also receive expert legal advice designed to give you the best possible outcome for your pending criminal or DUI case.

Even if you have been convicted of crimes in the past, you still have very important rights and The MacNeil Firm will fight to make sure that they are always honored and protected. We will not give up on you or on your case. Contact The MacNeil Firm for a free case evaluation today to find out how we can help you make sure that your legal rights are always honored and save your future reputation within your profession and your community. If you have a pending DUI or criminal case in Illinois or Indiana, don’t wait until it is too late to prevail. Contact us immediately to start minimizing the damage and helping you put this situation quickly behind you.

Donald N. Macneil, Esq.

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

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