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OVI and Prescription Drugs

Your friendly Youngstown OVI lawyer can tell you that, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control, 44% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug. Many people don’t realize that the side effects of the prescriptions they’re taking can look similar to alcohol intoxication. If a cop pulls you over thinking you are drunk, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble with the law.

Some of the side effects of prescription drugs that mimic drunkenness are confusion or foggy thinking, slow reflexes, sleepiness or drowsiness, and dilated pupils. All of these affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle and a police officer who stops you can arrest you if they think you are behaving as you are because you took a prescription drug.

Cops are always looking for impaired drivers as they patrol, trying to keep the citizens of their towns safe. They won’t hesitate to arrest those drivers, no matter why they’re impaired.

If you are pulled over on suspicion of driving while impaired, you may be asked to submit to chemical testing of your breath, urine, or blood. The tests are not perfect and could show you are impaired when you’re not.

You can refuse to submit to chemical testing, but that’s never recommended. To do so will cause you to automatically lose your license for up to a year. This automatic license suspension is performed by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and is called an Administrative License Suspension, or ALS. Refusing more than once makes the suspension longer; generally, a year of suspension is added for each refusal.

Prescription medications are drugs that are prescribed by a doctor to treat certain medical conditions, or to ease symptoms that would debilitate the patient if left unmedicated. Some of these drugs cause sleepiness and other side effects, like slurred speech and slow reflexes. Below is a list of some of these drugs:

  • Methadone
  • Demerol
  • Klonopin
  • Adderall
  • Hydrocodone
  • Xanax
  • Ritalin
  • Ambien
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxycontin
  • Ativan
  • Vicodin
  • Valium
  • Morphine
  • Norco
  • Percocet
  • Lunesta
  • Lortab
  • Lorcet

These drugs all come with paperwork from the pharmacy that list the side effects and advise you to avoid driving until you know how your body will react to the drugs. Your best bet is to read the information sheets and heed the warnings.


An OVI you receive as a result of prescription drug use will have the same penalties as an OVI received for drinking alcohol and driving. You could receive a jail fine of anywhere from three days to six months, a fine of $370 to $1,075, a suspended license of six months to three years ON TOP OF any ALS you got upon your arrest, an no eligibility for limited driving privileges for 15 to 30 days after your crime was committed.


The good news for drivers who take prescription drugs is that Ohio law lays out ways you can beat OVI charges in relation to them.

One of the defenses allowed by law is a lack of evidence. If there is no test result, there isn’t enough evidence to convict you and the judge may dismiss the case against you. This would happen if the arresting officer didn’t have you tested or if you refused to submit.

The other defense is that you can’t be charged with OVI in relation to your prescription drug if two things are true:

  1. The drug you took was prescribed to you by a licensed health care provider whose license allows them to prescribe medications; and
  2. You took the drug, either via injection, inhalation, or ingestion, in the manner in which you were instructed by the licensed health care provider’s instructions.

It’s hard for a prosecutor to claim the medication caused you to be an impaired driver when the drug you took was a valid prescription.

Sean Logue understands how the medications you take can lead to trouble for you. Call him today at 1-844-PITT-OVI.

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