Recently, a doctor in Clearfield County was charged with a DUI based on her use of prescription medication.
The doctor is accused of having the prescription drug Gabapentin in her system. Gabapentin, which has the brand name Neurontin, is a schedule V (five) drug. It is used to treat seizures and neuropathic pain which are often caused by diabetic neuropathy.
A prescription drug DUI is treated at the top level of punishment just like when someone has a blood alcohol content of greater than .16. It is not right that a prescription drug DUI is treated so harshly in Pennsylvania, but it is and that is why an aggressive defense is necessary. A first offense DUI based on prescription drugs can result in 72 hours to 6 months in jail plus one year’s license loss and in the case of a doctor, possible loss of the license to practice medicine. If it is a second or third offense, then the punishments get far worse.
There are multiple defenses to prescription drug DUI cases:
- The first defense is explaining to a judge or jury the underlying medical condition the person charged has and the physical and mental effects the disease or injury has on them.
- The second defense is to then point out to the judge or jury why the medication is necessary to help the person charged and how they are actually worse off by not taking the drug. People take medication because they are sick or injured. It is not illegal to drive while sick or injured. A lot of people with chronic pain and mental conditions are not capable of safely driving WITHOUT their medication but are fine when they take it.
- The third defense is pointing out that Standardized Field Sobriety Tests have never been scientifically validated to determine if a person is impaired by prescription medication.
- The fourth defense is that many of the physical signs that police officers say are indicators of impairment are, in fact, physical and mental side effects of the underlying injury or disease.
There are many other defenses to these cases and more so than in alcohol related DUI cases.
Manchester and Associates is a law firm dedicated to criminal defense that operates throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 1978. 5-star ratings prove what our firm is all about: making sure that the best possible outcome for our clients is achieved. If you find yourself charged with a DUI due to prescription drugs, contact us today.