Can you be charged with a controlled substance DUI even if you are only taking medication as prescribed by a doctor? The answer is “yes.” Pennsylvania DUI statute §3802(d)(2) makes it a crime for anyone to drive under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs to a degree that impairs that person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Noticeably, that section does not make an exception for prescription drugs that are taken as ordered by doctor. Further, §3802(d)(3) makes it a crime for anyone to drive under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs to a degree that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. This section does not require a certain level of alcohol in the blood. Instead, any combined amount of alcohol and drugs that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle is prohibited. This includes prescription drugs that are taken as prescribed. While a prescribed amount of a drug taken alone may not impair the driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle, even a small amount of alcohol mixed with that drug may cause impairment.
The controlled substance DUI sections are different from the alcohol sections in that there are not different penalties depending on the amount of the drug in the driver’s blood. Any amount of any prescription medication, if it causes a driver to be impaired, results in the highest tier of DUI penalties. A first offense is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 72 hours of incarceration. A second offense is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days of incarceration. A third or subsequent offense is punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year of incarceration.
Are there ways to fight a prescription drug DUI? Yes! The Commonwealth has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was impaired while driving AND that the impairment was caused by the prescription drug. Impairment while taking a prescription drug is not assumed as it is when a driver has a BAC over .08. The traditional DUI defensesare also available in prescription drug DUI cases. Our Berks County DUI attorneys will examine the facts of your case to determine the best defense in your case. If you decide to take your case to trial, our attorneys will fight to obtain a not guilty verdict. If you decide not to go to trial, our DUI attorneys will help you get the best deal possible. A DUI can have serious consequences and you need to have a knowledgeable Berks County DUI attorney on your side. Call us at 610-372-5128 or email us at [email protected]