Prescription medications are controlled substances that are legal to possess if you have a valid prescription from an authorized medical professional. Since doctors and pharmacies regularly distribute prescription drugs, they may seem harmless. It may seem like no big deal to “borrow” a pill or two from someone, especially with their permission.
For example, say you are about to travel and you usually have a prescription for Xanax to help with anxiety on the flight. You realize at the last minute that you are out of pills and your doctor wants you to come to the office before issuing a new prescription. You do not have time to schedule an appointment, so your mother gives you a few of her own Xanax to take with you. While this may seem like a perfectly logical solution to the problem, it is also against the law in Illinois.
Anytime you possess prescription drugs without the proper authority, you run the risk of an arrest and charge for drug possession. This may seem harsh—after all, you did not possess cocaine, heroin, or other street drugs. However, this is the law all the same, and too many people find themselves in criminal court for prescription drug possession.
Penalties for Prescription Drug Possession
The possible consequences of possessing prescription drugs can depend on many factors, including:
- The quantity you possessed
- How you acquired the drugs
- Whether you possessed the drugs with the intent to distribute them to others
- The type of drug in question
Authorities consider some prescription drugs to be more harmful than others. Like all controlled substances, prescription medications have classifications—known as “schedules”—based on the potential for abuse and the medical benefits and uses. The following are some commonly possessed prescription drugs and their classifications:
- Schedule V – This is the least serious classification and includes cough syrups with codeine, Lyrica and other analgesics, and antidiarrheal medications
- Schedule IV – Includes drugs such as Tramadol, Ambien, Xanax, Darvocet, Darvon, Ativan, Talwin, Soma, and Valium
- Schedule III – Includes Tylenol with codeine, testosterone, anabolic steroids, and ketamine
- Schedule II – This is the most serious classification, as doctors cannot write prescriptions for Schedule I drugs. This schedule includes methadone, Vicodin, fentanyl, OxyContin, Dilaudid, Demerol, Ritalin, and Adderall
Some of the prescription drugs considered to be the most dangerous are ones commonly shared among friends. For instance, many students may obtain Adderall without a prescription to stay awake to study longer. These students may not actively realize the illegality and possible consequences of such behavior—after all, they are simply trying to get better grades! Little do they know that they could be facing criminal convictions and penalties for something they thought was harmless.
Depending on the specific factors in your case, you could face anywhere from a misdemeanor charge to a serious felony. For a conviction, a sentence may include fines, probation, and imprisonment. You should always have an experienced criminal defense attorney evaluate the charges against you and possible penalties in your specific case.
A drug possession conviction on your record can also have lasting consequences. For example, students will no longer be eligible for federal financial aid if they have any drug-related convictions. This means that a high school student who takes Adderall to try to ace a final exam and maintain a high GPA may then have college opportunities diminished if they must rely on federal aid for tuition. Drug convictions can also make it difficult to find jobs, receive public benefits, or even rent housing. It is critical that you have the best defense possible in any prescription drug-related case.
Prescription Drugs and DUI
Prescription drugs can also play a role in cases involving driving under the influence (DUI) charges. Illinois law prohibits driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. While many people assume the law refers to illegal substances, it can also include prescription drugs legally obtained. Even though a doctor prescribes you a certain medication and you take it as directed, you can still get arrested and charged with DUI if officers believe the medication impaired your ability to drive.
A DUI conviction can affect you in many ways, including:
- Paying fines and court costs
- Possible jail time
- Loss of your driver’s license
- Having an ignition interlock device on your car once you get your license reinstated
- Raised insurance rates
- Drug and alcohol classes
- Loss of a commercial driver’s license
- Disqualification from certain jobs that involve driving
Fortunately, you can defend against allegations of impairment by prescription drugs. These cases require a different defense approach than DUI cases involving alcohol or prescription drugs, however. You need the right defense firm handling your case to ensure you do not face unnecessary and costly consequences for legal behavior.
It is illegal to drive with any amount of illegal drugs in your system. However, if a chemical test shows you only took your own prescription drugs, the prosecution then must prove those drugs impaired your ability to drive. Prosecutors usually rely on the testimony of the arresting officer that they witnessed the signs of impairment. However, signs of impairment from alcohol and impairment from prescription drugs can be very different. For instance, field sobriety tests do not work the same way in cases involving possible drug impairment. Also, prescription drugs can affect different users in different ways, so there may be no standard for impairment for a certain medication.
Contact a DuPage County, Illinois Criminal Defense Law Firm as Soon as Possible
At the office of Martin & Kent, L.L.C., we know how seriously drug possession and DUI convictions can affect your life. We have many tools and legal tactics to defend against both possession charges and DUI charges involving prescription drugs. We know that these cases differ from other types of DUI cases and we take the unique approach required to put forth your best defense. As former prosecutors, we know how to defend against a variety of charges, and we dedicate our defense practice to protecting the rights of our clients. Call (630) 474-8000 at any time—24/7—to discuss an arrest or criminal charges.