of the motorists in Illinois and around the country who are accused of driving under the influence are taken into custody because they consumed alcohol or took illegal narcotics before getting behind the wheel, but operating a motor vehicle while impaired by prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications can also lead to a DUI charge. The key factor in an intoxicated driving case is impairment, and there are dozens of legal substances that can affect an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
Taking narcotic pain relievers or sleep aids before driving is especially dangerous, and many over-the-counter products that are designed to promote sleep or ease suffering use prominent warning labels to let consumers know about this risk. These products can reduce reaction times and cause drowsiness even when only the recommended dose is taken. Fermented beverages such as kombucha tea and some herbal health supplements can also impair drivers.
The penalties for driving under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter medications are the same as they are for getting behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs. Individuals convicted of DUI will usually lose their driving privileges for at least 12 months and be ordered to pay fines and court costs. In Illinois, motorists convicted of their first drunk driving offense can be sent to jail for up to a year. When impaired motorists cause an accident resulting in serious injury or death, they could be charged with a felony.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys could mount the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication when their clients have been charged with a DUI related to legal drug use. Attorneys may make this argument when their clients were not aware of the intoxicating nature of the prescription or over-the-counter medications they used or took a combination of legal substances that had an unintended effect.