Illinois DUI Law: Different Treatment for Users of Prescribed Drugs vs. Illegal Drugs

joliet drug dui lawyersDo you take a prescription drug that can affect your ability to drive safely? If you do, be extra careful before you get behind the wheel of a car, because you could be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). If you cause a car crash that severely injures another person, you could be charged with aggravated DUI and could spend time in state prison.

Rising Concerns About Drug-Impaired Driving

Due to both the opioid epidemic and the increasing social acceptance of marijuana use, the police are increasingly on the lookout for drivers who may be drug impaired. In fact, according to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the number of drug-impaired drivers killed in fatal car crashes has risen substantially over the past 10 years while the number of alcohol-impaired drivers killed has declined.

Types of Prescription Medicines That Could Result in a DUI

Some common types of prescription medications that can affect your ability to drive safely include:

  • Strong pain relievers, particularly those containing opioids such as codeine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin;
  • Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, including benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax;
  • Medical marijuana and cannabis products; and
  • Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin.

Any drug can become even more dangerous when combined with alcohol or additional drugs.

Illinois Law Is Different for Prescription-Drug-Impaired Drivers than for Illegal-Drug-Impaired Drivers

To be convicted of driving under the influence of an illegal drug, generally any trace of illegal drugs in your system could lead to a DUI conviction. There are updated laws pertaining to marijuana, however, where you now must have a certain level of marijuana in your system before you could be convicted of a DUI. That is, it is now possible to have a small amount of marijuana in your system and be found not guilty of a DUI.

An “illegal drug” includes medications for which you do not have a valid prescription as well as street drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

If you currently have a valid prescription for a drug that could lead to unsafe driving behavior, things are quite different. To be convicted of driving under the influence of a prescription drug under Illinois DUI law, the prosecuting attorney must prove two facts:

• You were under the influence of a drug, an intoxicating compound, or any combination of drugs, intoxicating compounds, and/or alcohol; and

• You were “under the influence” to a degree that you were incapable of driving safely due to the medication.

The first element would most often be proven by chemical testing of bodily fluids. It could also be supported by your own admission, witness testimony, or other evidence.

The second element will be proven by the same methods used as proof of alcohol-impaired and cannabis-impaired driving, such as field sobriety tests, police officer observations and/or dash-cam video of your driving prior to a traffic stop, witness testimony, or analysis of an accident you caused.

Choose an Experienced Will County DUI Lawyer to Defend You

If you have been charged in Will County with driving under the influence of drugs or intoxicating compounds, whether prescription or illegal, quickly contact a Joliet drug DUI lawyer. A skilled defense attorney can challenge each point of the prosecution’s evidence to the point that the charges against you may be dropped entirely or the penalties significantly reduced. Contact the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025.

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