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DUI and Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs — especially narcotic painkillers — may cause drowsiness or other effects that can make it dangerous to drive. For that reason, a driver who gets pulled over and appears to be impaired while on prescription drugs might find himself or herself arrested for OVI / DUI under Ohio Rev. Code 4511.19. However, the standards for determining whether a driver is driving under the influence of prescription drugs is less concrete than those used for determining whether someone is under the influence of alcohol or many illicit drugs.

Common prescription drugs that might result in an OVI / DUI charge may include:

  • Pain drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, or Lortab
  • Cough syrups with codeine or hydrocodone such as Tussin, Tussionex, and Phenergan
  • Sedatives such as Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, or Xanax
  • Stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall or amphetamines

There are quantifiable legal limits for the amounts of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine you can have in your body, and when you’re at or above those limits you’re considered to be in violation of Ohio’s driving under the influence laws. However, there are no such quantifiable limits when it comes to prescription drugs, other than amphetamine.

That means it’s at a law enforcement officer’s discretion to decide if you’re too impaired to drive — usually through observing you driving in a way that suggests you’re impaired or by pulling you over and administering roadside field sobriety tests.

DUI Laws in Ohio

The officer may either seek your consent or a warrant to test your blood for the presence of prescription drugs when you’re suspected of driving under the influence. The officer has to have probable cause to test you. That may exist when:

  • Your driving suggested impairment but no alcohol was present
  • There was evidence of prescription drugs and you were in physical control of the vehicle

Your blood or urine sample has to be collected within three hours of your alleged OVI offense, and there must be a witness present who can verify that the sample is yours. There are specific regulations for performing blood or urine tests in the Ohio Administrative Code, and non-compliance could be grounds to have your results invalidated or deemed inadmissible as evidence against you.

If you refuse to take a blood or urine test, your license may be suspended under Ohio law. You face a one-year suspension for your first refusal, two years for your second refusal, three years for your third refusal, and five years for any subsequent refusals.

Defenses Against Your DUI Offense Involving Prescription Drugs

If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs, an experienced OVI / DUI attorney may be able to help you fight the charge. Common defenses may involve questioning the officer’s version of events if there’s evidence that raises reasonable doubt that you were impaired, or may involve challenging the test results if there were problems with the testing procedures, analysis, lab equipment, or personnel qualifications.

DUI Penalties in Ohio

A conviction for driving under the influence of prescription drugs carries the possibility of jail time, significant fines, and loss of your driver’s license. You also may see increased insurance rates, and the resulting criminal record might cause problems for you in the future when you try to apply for a job, a professional license, or an apartment.

If you’ve been charged with OVI / DUI for driving while using prescription drugs, your best chance at avoiding the serious consequences of conviction is to talk to an experience criminal defense attorney as early in the process as you can. An attorney can fight to preserve your rights, your freedom, and your future.

At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we can help you confront the Ohio criminal justice system from your arrest through to your trial. By advocating for your rights and thinking strategically about your case defense, we will maximize your chances of obtaining a positive case result. If you’ve been charged with OVI, call us today at (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

Facing a DUI involving Prescription Drugs? Contact Us.

If you’ve been charged with a OVI / DUI, it’s important to know what you’re up against. If you have any questions left unanswered by this page, or if you need a competent, experienced Columbus DUI attorney to fight for you in court, please contact us at (614) 500-3836 or via email at

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