People often do not think twice before taking medication. After all, if you are following your doctor’s instructions, what could possibly go wrong? In Illinois, getting behind the wheel of a car afterward can result in criminal charges.
Generally, Illinois law adopts a zero-tolerance approach for controlled substances. If, at the time of driving, you have any amount of a controlled substance in your system, this can form grounds for criminal charges.
A legal prescription can still result in DUI charges
This does not apply if you took the controlled substance because your doctor prescribed it. In such a case, a DUI conviction can ensue if the prosecution proves the substance actually impaired your ability to drive safely.
Types of drugs to watch for side effects
The most common types of medication that can affect driving include painkillers, sleeping aids and anti-anxiety drugs. SSRIs, which many doctors prescribe for conditions such as depression, can also have side effects that impair driving. Sometimes, other medications can also produce effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, vertigo, delayed reaction times and poor physical coordination.
Often, medications likely to have dangerous side effects will have a warning label listing them. Your doctor and pharmacist may also discuss potential effects with you. Because different people can have different reactions, it is important to speak with your doctor and fully understand the context. This applies to new prescriptions as well as to dosage changes and even switches from name brand to generic or vice-versa.
Even if your doctor or pharmacist does not discuss side effects that could affect driving, you may want to err on the side of caution when beginning a new medication or dosage. Sometimes, a medication can have an atypical effect, so it is best to get used to a medication before driving. Over-the-counter medications, especially those for colds and sleep, can also have side effects and impair your ability to operate a vehicle.
Basic legal framework
To get a conviction, prosecutors must prove the presence of the substance as well as impairment or unsafe driving. Unlike alcohol, there is no threshold amount to distinguish legal quantities from illegal ones; any amount can result in a conviction in the presence of impairment or unsafe driving.