Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

When most people think about a DUI, they visualize someone driving after drinking alcohol. However, alcohol is only one of many different substances that can impair your ability to safely drive a car. If you drive while you are under the influence of a drug, you can also be charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania. If you are facing charges of a DUI-D, the attorneys at DiCindio Law might be able to help you.

Driving after you have taken drugs, including certain prescription medications, marijuana, and illegal drugs, can impair your driving and result in a DUI charge. Having a prescription for your medication is not necessarily always a defense to a DUI-D.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12.8 million people drove while they were under the influence of drugs in 2017. in 2016, 43.6% of drivers who were drug tested after accidents in which someone was killed were positive for one or more drugs.

Different drugs have different effects on drivers. Drugs that impair your concentration, motor skills, judgment, or alertness are just as dangerous as alcohol.

How is drug impairment measured?

All of the states have made driving with a blood alcohol concentration that is above a certain level illegal. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. It is fairly easy to measure your impairment when you are stopped by a law enforcement officer in many cases. By contrast, it is not as easy to measure other types of drugs and your level of impairment.

For instance, THC in marijuana can be detected in your blood for typically around 30 days after use. There is no way to determine actual impairment from marijuana at a given time based solely on levels in the system, alone. On the other hand, cocaine leaves your body in just a couple of days.

Some law enforcement agencies use drug recognition experts or DREs. These are police officers who have undergone training to determine the level of impairment from drugs in motorists. DREs look for cues such as your eye movements and behavior that might point to being under the influence of drugs. Typically, the presence of drugs in your blood or urine are tested using a urine test or blood screen.

Drugged driving per se

While it can be harder to prosecute motorists for DUI-D offenses, Pennsylvania is one of 15 states that has a drugged driving per se law. Under 75 Pa. § 3802, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle with any detectable level of certain types of drugs in your system. Under the statute, you cannot drive if you have any detectable amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in your blood. You also cannot drive if you have any detectable amount of a Schedule II or Schedule III drugs if you do not have a prescription for it. Finally, you can also be charged with a DUI-D per se charge if you have metabolites of these drugs in your blood.

Effects of different drugs

Drugs can have different effects on you and on your ability to drive. Here are the effects of different types of drugs.

  • Cocaine- Can cause euphoria, dizziness, excitement, increased alertness, disorientation, confusion, irritability, aggressiveness, paranoia, and rapid heart rate.
  • LSD- Can cause hallucinations, delusions, impaired space, time, and depth, altered mental state, high blood pressure, and tremors.
  • Marijuana- Can cause euphoria, relaxation, altered perception of space and time, disorientation, paranoia, drowsiness, distorted images, and increased heart rate.
  • Methamphetamine – Can cause excitement, euphoria, delusions, hallucinations, poor impulse control, insomnia, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure.
  • Morphine and heroin- Can cause intense euphoria, relaxation, drowsiness, disconnectedness, sedation, analgesia, mental clouding, reduced heart rate, vomiting, nausea, and reduced reflexes.

Effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs

Certain drugs that you are prescribed or that you can buy over-the-counter can still impair your driving. You should read the warning labels of your prescriptions and your OTC drugs. Here are some common prescription and OTC drugs that can impair you:

  • Antidepressants- Certain antidepressants are sedating and can cause impairment similar to alcohol.
  • Antihistamines- Some can slow reaction time and impair your coordination.
  • Valium- Taking 10 mg of this drug can impair you in a similar manner as when you have a BAC of 0.10% after drinking alcohol.
  • Sleeping pills- Sleeping pills can still have residual effects in the morning.
  • Decongestants- These drugs can cause you to feel anxious, dizzy, and drowsy.
  • Hydrocodone- This is an opiate and can cause similar effects as morphine.

Even though Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana, you can still be charged with a DUI-D if you are impaired at the time of driving.

Get legal help

Defending against a DUI-D can be tricky. If you are facing charges, it is important for you to seek legal help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At DiCindio Law, we understand the various types of defenses that might be available in a DUI-D case. We can review the facts and evidence in your case and explain the different options that you have available to you.

A DUI-D conviction can have serious consequences, including the potential for incarceration, steep fines, and other penalties. Even after you have completed your sentence, the conviction may cause long-lasting consequences on your life. You may have more trouble finding a job, finding housing, or securing educational loans. We will work to identify all of the defenses that might be available to you so that we can build the strongest defense case on your behalf. To learn more about the options that you might have, call DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation.