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Can You Get A DUI for Prescription Drugs? 

The Law Offices of John Della Rocca Oct. 20, 2022

More than four billion medicinal prescriptions are dispensed across the U.S. each year. As research and technology continue to develop, more and more Americans are relying on modern medicine to help with mental, physical, and emotional healing. Because of these advancements, there is little denying that when you are in pain, medicine can be a major catalyst for recovery and personal well-being. However, in spite of the positive impacts of today’s medicine, there can also be significant side effects that are easily overlooked. For example, driving an automobile after taking a legally prescribed medicine could lead to a DUI arrest and conviction.  

As a criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of John Della Rocca, I’m here to help you understand the driving laws surrounding prescription medication and the consequences for impaired driving. If you live in Philadelphia or anywhere in Pennsylvania, set up a consultation to get started.   

DUID For Prescription Drugs in Pennsylvania 

Most people are familiar with the term DUI or DWI when it comes to alcohol and traffic-related incidents. Pennsylvania has very strict driving under-the-influence laws and even legally prescribed medicine is no expectation. The law most generally processes drug and motor vehicle-related incidents in one of two ways: Per se cases and impairment cases.    

“Per Se” Laws 

Pennsylvania follows “per se” law which means any drug on a specific list may result in the maximum penalty for DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs). Per Se laws and lists can be confusing. Because of this, it is always best to consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney first.  


Not only can you be charged criminally under per se laws in the state of Pennsylvania, but the prosecution may charge you with impaired drug driving. Unlike per se laws that match listed drugs to specific penalties, determining impairment applies to a seemingly endless list of substances that can be taken into the human body and have the ability to impair a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.  This means that even the extra shot of caffeine or over-the-counter drugs you ingested could serve as the basis for an impairment-based DUID charge.   

Consequences Of Driving on Prescription Drugs 

DUID penalties are imposed at the highest level. The following information serves as a general guide for understanding the potential consequences of driving under the influence of prescription drugs. 

1st Offense: 

  • Court fees and costs no less than $3,000 

  • Fines of up to $5,000 

  • Driving privileges revoked for 1 year 

  • Interlock ignition for 1 year 

  • Jail sentence for up to 6 months 

2nd Offense: 

  • Court fees and costs no less than $3,000 

  • Fines of up to $10,000 

  • Driving privileges revoked for 18 months 

  • Interlock ignition for 1 year 

  • Jail sentence for up to 5 years 

  • First Degree Misdemeanor conviction on your criminal record 

3rd Offense:  

  • Court fees and costs no less than $5,000 

  • Fines of up to $15,000 

  • Driving privileges revoked for 18 months 

  • Interlock ignition for 1 year 

  • Prison sentence for up to 10 years  

  • Placement into FBI criminal database 

  • Third Degree Felony conviction on your criminal record 

Drugs That Can Get You A DUID 

Drugs that can be prosecuted in Pennsylvania are separated into two lists: schedule one and schedule two. It is important to know the main drug types as well as some common drugs that particularly raise suspicion.  

The list of Schedule 1 and 2 drugs that follow “per se” laws include: 

  • Amphetamines  

  • Analgesics  

  • Cannabinoids  

  • Cocaine 

  • Hallucinogens 

  • Opiates 

  • Sedatives 

A few common drugs that can lead to a DUID are sleeping pills such as Ambient, Xanax, or anxiety and depression drugs. Pain medicine like Vicodin is also a typical drug in these kinds of cases.   

Personal Legal Advocacy When You Need It 

Facing any criminal charge alone is an unnerving experience and complex drug and pharmaceutical laws make the process even more overwhelming.  Whether you have recently begun taking prescription medication and are seeking to avoid trouble or have found yourself facing a DUID related charge, it is critical that you partner with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney.   

At The Law Offices of John Della Rocca, I fight hard to ensure that one mistake doesn’t lead to hefty fines and looming criminal charges. If you are in Philadelphia or anywhere in the surrounding areas of Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, or Chester Counties—as well as communities throughout New Jersey—reach out to me today.