Most people are aware that driving after drinking alcohol can put them at risk of a DUI in Illinois. However, driving while taking prescription medication can carry the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol or street drugs. Even over-the-counter medication can lead to a DUI if the medication impairs your ability to drive safely.
If you are charged with a prescription drug DUI in Illinois, talk to the experienced DUI attorneys at Dolci & Weiland about your rights and how to fight these criminal charges.
Illinois Under the Influence Statute
Under Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/11-501, a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle while under the influence of any:
- Intoxicating compound;
- Drug; or
- Combination of alcohol, drugs, or intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving.
It is also considered driving under the influence if there is any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the driver's blood, breath, or urine resulting from the unlawful use of a controlled substance.
Illinois Prescription DUI Penalties
The penalties for a DUI conviction involving prescription drugs are generally the same as for alcohol or other drugs. Penalties depend on a number of factors, including whether the driver has prior impaired driving offenses. Other aggravating factors may include whether children were in the vehicle at the time, or if the driver was involved in an injury accident.
First-time Conviction for Prescription Drug DUI
- Up to one year in jail,
- Up to $2,500 in fines, and
- Participation in a DUI impact panel.
A first DUI can also mean a revocation of your Illinois driver's license for a minimum of one year.
Most first-time DUI offenses do not require mandatory jail time. A driver charged with their first prescription drug DUI may be able to receive court supervision instead of imprisonment. If the driver abides by the terms of court supervision, he or she may be able to have the criminal case dismissed with no criminal conviction. The conditions of court supervision may require meeting certain conditions, including:
- Fines and program costs,
- Community service,
- Drug treatment,
- Drug testing, and
- Avoiding any further criminal charges.
Court supervision can also avoid a mandatory license revocation. However, a driver can only take advantage of court supervision one time. Any further DUI charges will not be eligible for supervision.
Second and Subsequent Prescription Drug DUI Penalties
An Illinois DUI second offense or subsequent offense generally carries increased penalties. A second offense includes any driving under the influence convictions, including prior DUIs involving alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs.
A second prescription drug DUI conviction is also a misdemeanor and may result in a mandatory minimum of five days in jail or 240 hours of community service. In addition, the driver may have their vehicle registration suspended. However, for some drivers, the most serious consequence involves having their Illinois driving privileges revoked for a minimum of five years.
A conviction for a third prescription drug DUI in Illinois is a Class 2 Felony. The penalties for a class 2 felony in Illinois include a prison sentence of three to seven years (or probation for up to 48 months with a minimum of ten days in jail or 480 hours of community service). A third DUI can also result in a fine of up $25,000, vehicle registration suspension, and revocation of your driving privileges for up to ten years.
Which Prescription Drugs Can Lead to a DUI?
Illinois drug laws apply to any drug which renders the driver incapable of driving safely. This could include any prescription drug or even over-the-counter medications if they impair the driver's ability to operate a vehicle.
Having a valid prescription is not a defense to impaired driving charges. Even if the drugs were prescribed by a doctor, taken according to directions, and the driver has the prescription when pulled over, the driver can still face an arrest.
Common prescription drugs that lead to DUI charges can include:
- Opioids (including Fentanyl, Vicodin, and Oxycontin),
- Benzodiazepines (Valium or Xanax)'
- Sleep medications (Ambien or Lunesta)'
- Prescription cough syrup, or
- Medical marijuana.
When the driver does NOT have a valid prescription, the driver may face additional charges if found in possession of a controlled substance.
Even if the driver is not impaired, he or she may face a DUI charge if chemical tests show the presence of a controlled substance resulting from unlawful use or consumption. This includes any controlled substance listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act. However, this does not apply to individuals who are legally taking prescription drugs.
Challenging Drug Test Results in Illinois
There are many ways to challenge a prescription drug DUI in Illinois. This includes challenging the drug test results that showed the presence of a controlled substance in the driver's blood or urine. Chemical testing in DUI cases is not always accurate. The accuracy of drug testing relies on following the right procedures and using the right equipment.
Any number of errors can be cause for challenging drug test results. This includes:
- Contaminating the blood or urine sample,
- Using the wrong testing device,
- Sample mix-ups or mislabeling,
- Improper storage,
- Failing to properly clean or calibrate the testing machines, or
- Tampering with the samples.
When the police and the state fail to follow proper drug testing procedures, your Illinois DUI defense attorney can file a motion to suppress the faulty evidence. Without evidence of a controlled substance in the driver's system, the prosecutor may have to drop the criminal charges.
Incapable of Safely Driving in Illinois
Another possible defense for driving under the influence of prescription drugs in Illinois involves challenging the prosecutor's claim that the drugs made the driver incapable of driving safely. However, this often relies on the police officer's testimony or subjective field sobriety tests.
There are many reasons that a driver may appear impaired without having to do with prescription drugs, including the driver's age, physical abilities, mental or physical impairments, or medical conditions. Talk to your Chicago/DuPage prescription drug DUI lawyers about the best defenses available in your case to avoid a criminal conviction.
Prescription Drug DUI Defense in Chicago/DuPage
With or without a valid prescription, a prescription drug DUI in Illinois can mean expensive fines and the loss of your license. If you or a loved one is charged with a DUI after taking prescription drugs, contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney with a record of successfully defending clients charged with a prescription drug DUI.
The attorneys of Dolci & Weiland are former prosecutors who understand how the state prosecutes criminal DUI cases. Let them use their experience to fight for you to challenge the state's evidence and avoid a criminal conviction. Contact Illinois DUI defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland today at 312-238-9007 in Chicago or 630-261-9098 in DuPage County.