DUI and Prescription Drugs in Pennsylvania

When most people hear the word DUI, they associate this crime with alcohol. But over the course of the last decade, a new type of DUI has become an issue for law enforcement: prescription drug-related DUIs. A large spike in prescription drug DUIs has caused law enforcement across the county to shift their focus from alcohol consumption to drug impairment while behind the wheel - recently coined as “drugged driving.”

Pennsylvania is one of the many states who has prioritized enforcing drug DWI laws in the name of public safety. Law enforcement has not been reluctant to pull over people they suspect may be under the influence of a substance. Even though the prescription drugs in your system were lawfully prescribed, and you need them to improve your overall health, they can still land you a DUI in the state of Pennsylvania. These charges can expose you to penalties like the suspension of your license, costly fines, and even a jail or imprisonment sentence.

If you have been charged with drugged driving, it's important you understand what you're up against. The more you know about the state's laws and penalties, the more likely you'll make wise decisions, like seeking legal counsel to defend your case. In this article, we will address the laws and penalties surrounding prescription drug DUIs and the importance of retaining the right attorney to advocate for you.

Drugged Driving Laws in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania statutes, it is against the law for a person to “drive, operate, or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle” if they are caught driving with controlled substances in their system. I've typically seen drivers arrested for having drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Oxycodone in their blood, or a combination of these substances, even when prescribed.

Chances are if you're pulled over on suspicion of drugged driving, you'll be making a trip to the police station. Unlike alcohol impairment, drug impairment cannot be promptly determined by roadside tests. Therefore, proof of impairment is only garnered through the examination of a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) and chemical testing at the station.

However, in order to be arrested, it doesn't take much proof, thanks to the state's zero-tolerance law. An officer must only have a reasonable suspicion to believe you are impaired by drugs (injection marks, enlarged pupils, blood pressure, pulse rate) to arrest and charge you with a DUI.


The penalties for drugged driving are the same for people who acquire a DUI for alcohol consumption. The severity of a penalty is based on how many DUIs have been previously accrued, or if there is an excessive amount of drugs found in the system of a defendant. People who are charged with a drug DUI for being generally impaired may be facing the following penalties:

First Offense

  • Up to six months of probation
  • $300 fine
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Drug or alcohol treatment (if ordered)

Second Offense

  • Five days to six months in jail
  • A fine up to $2,500
  • 12 month license suspension
  • 1 year ignition interlock installation
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Drug or alcohol treatment (if ordered)

Subsequent Offenses

  • Ten days to two years in prison
  • A fine up to $5,000
  • 12 month license suspension
  • 1 year ignition interlock installation
  • Drug or alcohol treatment (if ordered)

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

A DUI - whether it consists of drugs or alcohol - is not a joke. Many people charged with drugged driving feel as if they won't be convicted because their drugs are prescribed. But the existence of a prescription does not matter in these cases. If you have been charged with a drug DUI it's important you get in contact with an attorney immediately. Skilled legal professionals from LLF Law Firm successfully represented clients who've acquired misdemeanor and felony DUI charges, and they can do the same for you. Contact them today.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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