Is the Use of Prescription Medication a Defense to an Indiana DUI Charge?

Indiana’s DUI laws don’t just address the presence of alcohol in a driver’s system. Having a controlled substance in your blood could also land you with a DUI charge. However, in some cases, a valid prescription could act as a defense.

If you’ve been charged with operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in your body, retaining legal counsel is critical. A knowledgeable Indianapolis DUI defense lawyer can explain your rights and options.

If you would like to know more information about the types of DUI field tests, view this page.

What the Law Says About Controlled Substances

Indiana Code 9-30-5-1 is the primary law covering DUI (also known as OWI) offenses in the state. While most associate DUIs with alcohol, a controlled substance or metabolite of one can give rise to a misdemeanor charge.

Subsection (c) of the statute reads: “A person who operates a vehicle with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II of IC 35-48-2 or its metabolite in the person’s body commits a Class C misdemeanor.”

A controlled substance can include both illegal and prescription medications. Schedules I and II list a number of opiates, depressants, stimulants, and more. A metabolite, meanwhile, is a byproduct of the body breaking down (metabolizing) a drug. Metabolites can stay in a person’s bloodstream for a long period of time after using a drug.

Exactly how long the drug will be detected depends on such factors as:

  • A person’s body fat percentage;
  • How often the person uses the drug;
  • The amount of drug the person consumed;
  • How sensitive the drug test is.

It’s important to understand that the mere presence of a controlled substance is enough to trigger a DUI charge. Unlike alcohol, which must reach a blood level of .08, any amount of a drug or metabolite could cause you trouble. This is true even if you were not under the influence of the drug when you were pulled over by the police.

Regardless of why you are charged with a DUI, consult with an experienced Indianapolis DUI defense attorney.

Prescription Medication: a Possible Defense

Subsection (d) of the above statute contains a potential defense to the misdemeanor charge of subsection (c).

It reads: “It is a defense to subsection (c) that the accused person consumed the controlled substance in accordance with a valid prescription or order of a practitioner (as defined in IC 35-48-1) who acted in the course of the practitioner’s professional practice.”

So, for instance, if you consumed an amphetamine like Adderall pursuant to a prescription, you could have a defense.

It would not be a defense if you had no valid prescription or you consumed another person’s controlled substance. Also, if you did something inconsistent with your prescription such as drink alcohol with the drug, this could undermine your case.

In other words, you need to be using the medicine as prescribed. Whether and to what extent you can invoke the above defense will depend on the unique facts of your case. Be sure to ask an Indianapolis DUI defense lawyer if any of the above apply to you.

Finally, it should be noted that your prescription drug use does not excuse dangerous driving behavior. Some medications, for instance, cause drowsiness and make it extremely unsafe to operate a motor vehicle. You need to be aware of the side effects of your drug and adjust your driving accordingly.

Here to Defend Your Rights and Interests After a DUI Charge

If you’ve been charged with a DUI/OWI offense, retaining an Indianapolis DUI defense lawyer early is your best option. Rathburn Law Office P.C. will review the circumstances of your charges as well as the prosecutor’s evidence against you. Then we will get to work building a robust defense that puts your rights and interests first.

You can rely on our experience handling DUI cases for countless other clients. Reach out to us today to learn more.