Prescription Drugs Increase DWI Risks in Minnesota

In Minnesota, it’s illegal for an individual to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of a (prescription drug) Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A MN DWI lawyer is often necessary to defend innocent Minnesota drivers who are taking valid prescriptions while under a doctor’s care.


According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five distinct schedules. Drug classifications are based on their acceptable medical use and their potential for dependency and abuse. According to federal and state laws, a substance does not have to be listed as a controlled substance to be treated as a Schedule I substance. Minnesota drivers under the influence of Schedule I substances when stopped typically need a MN DWI lawyer, since Schedule I substances are subject to criminal prosecution.

Schedule I Drugs

According to the DEA, drugs, substances, or chemicals with no accepted medical use, a high potential for abuse, and the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence are defined as Schedule I drugs. Examples of Schedule I drugs include: marijuana; methaqualone, peyote, heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

Schedule II Drugs

Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse. These drugs are considered dangerous because use often leads to severe physical and/or psychological dependence. Examples of Schedule II drugs include: Cocaine; Vicodin; OxyContin; Adderall; Ritalin; Dexedrine; Demerol; fentanyl; methamphetamine; and methadone. Schedule II drugs also include any combination of drugs or products with 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit.


Under Minnesota Statutes, driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance is illegal. Even if the person has a valid prescription and is not impaired in any way while driving, it’s still illegal. In addition, Minnesota’s implied consent law, 169A.52, Subd. 4(a) requires revocation of a person’s driver’s license when a drug test demonstrates the presence of such a controlled substance.

In Minnesota, these current statutes allow many people who take valid prescription drugs under a doctor’s orders to be arrested, incarcerated, fined, and have their driver’s license revoked, even with a first offense. The state legislature has provided an affirmative DWI defense option for drivers who have a valid prescription for Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, but the burden of proof falls to the defendant. Typically, a MN DWI lawyer is necessary to provide an acceptable defense in Minnesota courts. This affirmative defense is only applicable in criminal cases, as Minnesota’s implied consent law fails to recognize this defense in civil and administrative driver’s license suspension cases.

Many Mankato residents are faced with potential legal problems that result from taking prescription drugs. People who take valid prescription drugs after surgical procedures or for chronic pain or illness are at higher risks of getting a DWI if stopped while driving a car. If a drug test is done, it’s difficult to assess because it’s difficult to know how long certain prescription drugs remain in a person’s blood or urine. Some prescription drugs can still be detected in the blood or urine days after the last dose.


Under Minnesota drug possession laws, penalties vary depending on the type and amount of illegal substance found. Drug offenses committed on or after August 1, 2016 follow new penalties imposed by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission. In relation to DWI arrests for the possession of Schedule I and Schedule II substances, the following penalties apply:

  • First Degree Convictions – Individuals convicted of possessing at least 50g of cocaine or methamphetamine, 25g of heroin, 50 kilos marijuana, or 500 marijuana plants are considered first degree offenders. First degree offenders face up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million.
  • Second Degree Convictions – Offenders convicted of possessing at least 25g cocaine or methamphetamine, 6g heroin, 50g other narcotics, 100 doses hallucinogen, 25 kilos marijuana, 100 marijuana plants, or Schedule I or Schedule II narcotics can face up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.
  • Third, Fourth and Fifth Degree Convictions – While there are no longer minimum sentencing requirements for third, fourth, or fifth degree offenders, convicted individuals can still face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines depending on the severity of the crime.

Minnesota has some of the country’s harshest drug penalties. If convicted of possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance, a MN DWI lawyer may be necessary for adequate defense. However, with recent drug law and penalty changes, many drug offenders may now be sent to chemical dependency treatment programs instead of prison.

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