Pennsylvania Prescription Drug DUI | Charges, Penalties and Defense

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You probably know you can get into trouble for driving under the influence of alcohol or an illegal drug. However, prescription medications, legally prescribed for you by your doctor to help you cope with conditions like depression or sleep problems, can also put you at risk of a DUI charge.

If police or troopers decide you were driving erratically because you were under the influence, even if your impairment was due to prescription drugs that you acquired legally, you can be arrested for DUI. The penalties for drugged driving, called DUID, are even harsher than those for driving under the influence of alcohol. If you find yourself in this position, you will likely need the services of an experienced DUI lawyer to fight the charges against you.

If your future has been threatened due to a DUI charge in Pennsylvania, you need an experienced DUI lawyer to develop a strong defense on your behalf. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we are able to provide effective advocacy to fight for the reduction or elimination of your DUI charges and penalties.

Contact us at (412) 281-2146 for a free case consultation.

Pennsylvania Prescription Drug DUI

If you are pulled over for a Pittsburgh DUID, law enforcement will first check you for signs of impairment. These could include slurred speech, inability to hold one’s head up, bloodshot eyes, or trouble focusing. At this time, the officer will likely ask you to take a DUI test. Sometimes this starts with field sobriety tests – which are subjective and can be fought – and at other times, the police will ask you for a blood, breath, or urine test.

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to drive under the influence of prescription drugs. State DUI laws equate legitimate prescription drugs obtained from your doctor to be on the same level as illegal drugs in terms of their ability to impair a driver. Pennsylvania law will also take into account the last 10 years of your driving history to determine if this is your second DUI.

Which Medications Could Impair Driving?

Many medications used for legitimate purposes have the potential to cause various effects on the body that produce impairment when it comes to the ability to safely drive a vehicle. These effects can include misjudging time or distance, impaired decision-making, slowed reaction times, sleepiness, and dizziness. If you find yourself accused of drugged driving, you will need the representation of a skilled DUI lawyer to provide a strong defense on your behalf.

Numerous drugs have the potential to induce a condition of drugged driving. These include many strong pain medications, in addition to drugs that treat insomnia, anxiety, ADHD, and other ailments. Prescriptions that can potentially put you in jeopardy for DUI include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Adderall
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Oxycontin
  • Lortab
  • Norco
  • Vicodin
  • Methadone
  • Ritalin
  • Seconal
  • Xanax
  • Oxycodone
  • Percocet
  • Secobarbital
  • Valium

At-Risk Individuals

You place your safety and the safety of others at risk if you drive while under the influence of prescribed medication that can potentially impair your motor and cognitive skills. Other medications that are less potent, but taken in doses higher or more frequent than prescribed, can also have a similar effect.

There is an increased risk of driving impaired when you first start a new medication, or if you take more of your meds than you were prescribed to alleviate your symptoms.

Older drivers are particularly susceptible to incurring a DUI as a result of using prescription drugs. With aging, the body may not break down certain drugs as quickly it did in the past. This can lead to accidental intoxication. Additionally, with the cognitive decline that accompanies aging, an older driver taking an improper dosage of prescribed drugs may become particularly vulnerable to driving while impaired.

If you find yourself in this position, a skilled DUI lawyer can provide you with an intelligent defense to fight the prosecution’s charges against you.

Law Enforcement Evaluation

Law enforcement looks for behavior that indicates driver impairment involving intoxication resulting from drug use (prescribed or otherwise). These behaviors can include driving erratically, weaving, driving too slow, driving too closely to the next vehicle, speeding, or reckless driving.

Also, after your vehicle is stopped, law enforcement will look for personal characteristics and behaviors that indicate impairment due to drugs, such as glassy eyes and slurred speech.

The next step will involve your voluntary participation in a field sobriety test, followed by a blood or urine test.

Law enforcement in Pennsylvania may utilize the services of drug recognition evaluators (DRE) who implement a multi-step approach to test suspected drug-impaired drivers. A DRE may examine the pupils, take blood pressure and pulse, and look for indications of injection marks. A DRE may also perform separate field sobriety tests and ask you about any possible drug use.

In the end, you can be charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania if you were driving in an unsafe manner due to impairment caused by medications you have taken.

Penalties for DUID in Pittsburgh

In Pennsylvania, driving under the influence of drugs will cause you to be charged at the highest level of the Commonwealth’s three-tier system.

Third tier, first offense:

  • Three days to six months in jail
  • $1,000 to $5,000 fine
  • One year license suspension
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • You may be required to take a court-ordered treatment program

Third tier, second offense:

  • 90 days to five years in jail
  • $1,500 to $10,000 fine
  • 18 month license suspension
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Ignition interlock on your vehicle for one year
  • You may be required to take a court-ordered treatment program

Third tier, third offense:

  • One to five years in jail
  • $2,500 to $10,000 fine
  • 18 month license suspension
  • Ignition interlock on your vehicle for one year
  • You may be required to take a court-ordered treatment program

Other negative repercussions of a DUID conviction include:

  • Your Pittsburgh DUID conviction will be on your permanent criminal record, making employment, finding an apartment, maintaining custody, and obtaining student financial aid difficult.
  • You face likely and substantial increases to your car insurance premiums. In some instances, your insurance provider may drop you from coverage altogether.
  • You may face even harsher penalties if you caused anyone injury or death because of your DUID. In these cases, you also risk being sued for damages in a civil lawsuit.

How a Pittsburgh DUID Attorney Can Help

If you have been charged with DUID, your first step should be to immediately hire a Pittsburgh DUID attorney. An experienced Pittsburgh DUID attorney can evaluate the complex driving under the influence laws in light of your unique situation.

One of the next steps in the DUID process will be your preliminary hearing. This is the first court appearance on your case and it is critical because at this hearing your options, including a plea negotiation or a trial, will be determined. Your attorney will help you obtain the best possible outcome for your situation.

Your Defense For Driving Drugged Charges

If you do not choose to negotiate a plea and your case goes to trial, your Pittsburgh DUID attorney will have several lines of defense depending on the circumstances of your case. A few of these are:

  • The police did not have probable cause to stop you
  • The police did not have probable cause to test you for DUID
  • The results of the drug test were not accurate
  • The testing equipment used was flawed

An Experienced Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer Can Help

Your rights are at stake and you need the best defense to keep them. As an experienced Pittsburgh DUID attorney, I will fight using the strongest defense available to get your DUI for prescription drugs charge reduced or dismissed so you can move on with your life.

If DUI charges are staring you down, you need an attorney who will stand by you every step of the way to counteract the prosecution’s case. You can depend on the Pittsburgh DUI attorneys of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to fight vigorously for the best possible outcome on your behalf.

Call (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation with our team of experienced Pittsburgh attorneys.