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Can the use of prescription medications lead to DUI charges?

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2021 | Criminal Defense

A Pennsylvania driving under the influence charge may lead to serious, life-changing penalties if it leads to a conviction. You may think you are in the clear if you always abstain from driving after drinking. However, certain medications may lead to DUI charges if they hinder your ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Drug-impaired driving has become increasingly common across Pennsylvania, and state and local law enforcement agencies have ramped up their enforcement in response. Many law enforcement agencies have begun training their officers with regard to identifying drugged drivers.

Drugged driving statistics

In 2018, Pennsylvania authorities arrested 49,730 individuals for driving under the influence. Of those arrested for DUI, 33,712 of them received violations for driving under the influence of a drug. This is a 28%-increase over the previous three years. It is unclear how many of those drugged driving arrests involved prescription medications versus other illegal drugs. However, arrests involving drivers using prescriptions continue to rise.

Prescription drug driving arrests

Pennsylvania follows something called a “per se” arrest system. This means if you drive with any substance in your system, prescription or otherwise, that appears on a certain list, you face a DUI charge indicating the highest level of impairment. This means the penalties you face for driving on certain prescription drugs are the same you would face if driving under the influence of a substance that is illegal for all users. Certain sedatives and sleep medications are among the prescription medications that have the potential to lead to DUI charges.

If convicted of drunk or drugged driving in Pennsylvania, you may face a number of penalties ranging from possible jail time to ignition interlock device requirements, among others.