Q & A: Can I be arrested for DUI while using a prescribed fentanyl patch?

There is a long-standing myth that you can’t be charged with DUI as a result of taking prescription medications as prescribed. That’s not completely true. For example, there are a number of medications that cause drowsiness and come with warning labels that the patient should not drive or operate heavy machinery. People taking such medications could still present a danger to other drivers and may be charged under the DUI law’s general impairment provision.

Another issue in these cases is the current DEA schedule for fentanyl. Certain fentanyl analogues have recently been reclassified as Schedule I drugs by the DEA. These changes shouldn’t have included prescribed fentanyl, but some officers may not be aware of the distinctions.

The applicable schedule matters because Schedule I drugs–like fentanyl that is sold on the street–are deemed to have no medicinal value. Accordingly, drivers found to have fentanyl or other Schedule I drugs (heroin, cocaine, marijuana, etc.) in their systems are subject to more severe penalties. However, if you are taking a Schedule II or III drug as prescribed, you will not face those penalties, but could still be prosecuted under the general impairment provision of the DUI law.