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What You Need To Know About Drugged Driving in PA

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with a DUI involving drugs. A DUI drug offense can be charged when you drive while impaired to the slightest degree by any type of drug, including prescription medications. You can also face a charge of driving under the influence of drugs if you drive with any measurable amount of a controlled I or controlled II substance in your body that is illegal or for which you do not have a valid prescription. If you are facing drugged DUI charges, you should seek immediate legal help from an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law.

What are Pennsylvania’s Drugged Driving Laws?

Drugged driving is prohibited under 75 Pa.CS § 3802(d).

Under this law, you can be charged with a drugged driving offense if you drove, had actual physical control, or operated a motor vehicle when any of the following situations applies:

  • You have a Schedule I controlled substance in your blood.
  • You have a Schedule II controlled substance in your blood that is not legally prescribed to you.
  • You have a Schedule III controlled substance in your blood that is not legally prescribed to you.
  • You have a metabolite of a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance in your blood without a prescription.
  • Your ability to drive a vehicle is impaired by drugs in your system or a combination of drugs and alcohol.
  • You are under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance prohibited under 18 Pa.CS § 7303.

The zero-tolerance law in Pennsylvania

Under 75 Pa.CS 3802(d)(1), Pennsylvania has a zero-tolerance law for drugged driving. You can be charged with this offense if you are driving, operating, or have actual physical control of a car when you have a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance for which you do not have a valid prescription. This law means that you can be charged with a DUI even if you are not impaired by trace amounts of drugs or their metabolites in your system at the time of your stop and arrest.

How Is a DUI Blood Test Conducted in Pennsylvania_

Zero-tolerance drugged DUI vs. impaired driving drugged DUI

You can also be charged with a drugged driving DUI if you are under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol and are impaired from the ability to safely drive, operate, or physically control your vehicle. For this section, the prosecutor is not required to prove that you had drugs present in your system to win a conviction. Instead, the prosecutor could rely on the officer’s observations of you to argue that you were impaired by drugs, solvents, or noxious substances.

Police agencies and prosecutors rely on drug recognition experts to secure convictions in drugged driving impairment DUIs. These are officers who have undergone training classes put on by their departments in how to recognize the signs of drug-related impairment. Unlike the standardized field sobriety tests that have been promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the tests administered by DREs are not standardized. They do not have outside scientific studies to back them up beyond biased studies completed by law enforcement agencies. However, courts still allow DREs to testify in drugged driving cases about their identification of drugged drivers and the types of drugs that allegedly caused the driver’s impairment.

When a DRE administers tests, he or she will look for signs of impairment. If he or she determines the driver is impaired, the DRE will then determine whether the impairment is related to a medical condition or drugs. If the DRE believes that the driver is impaired by drugs, he or she will then determine the type or types of drugs that are causing the driver to be impaired.

Patrol officers will often call DREs to traffic stops when they suspect impairment by a substance other than alcohol. DREs nearly always determine that the drivers are impaired by drugs and are normally unwilling to back down from their assessments even when confronted by contradictory evidence in court.

In a zero-tolerance drugged DUI case, the prosecutor is not required to prove impairment. Instead, the only thing the prosecutor will be required to prove is that the driver had a minimal level of a scheduled controlled substance or its metabolite in his or her blood without a valid prescription within two hours of his or her arrest.

What are the penalties for drugged driving?

The penalties for drugged DUI offenses are the same as for alcohol-related DUIs at the highest BAC tier level. While alcohol DUIs are divided into tiers based on a driver’s BAC, people who are charged with drugged driving automatically face the penalties for the highest BAC DUI tier.

For a first offense drugged DUI conviction, you will face the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor
  • From 72 hours to six months in jail
  • Fine up to $5,000
  • 12-month suspension of your driver’s license
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Drug assessment and treatment if ordered

If you are convicted of a second offense within the past 10 years, you will face the following penalties:

  • First-degree misdemeanor
  • From 90 days up to five years in prison
  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 18 months
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Drug assessment and treatment if ordered

For a third DUI conviction within 10 years, you will face the following penalties:

  • Third-degree felony
  • From one to five years in prison
  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 18 months
  • Drug assessment and treatment if ordered

Potential defenses to drugged driving charges

The defenses that your attorney might be able to assert will depend on the facts of your case. Some of the types of defenses that might be available include the following:

  • Officer did not have reasonable suspicion to support a stop
  • Officer did not have probable cause to support your arrest
  • Officer did not have a search warrant to seize your blood
  • There were problems with the chain of custody for your blood sample
  • Your blood test results were inaccurate
  • The tests performed at the roadside were conducted improperly
  • You had a valid prescription for a Schedule II or III substance detected for a zero-tolerance DUI

What if you are sleeping it off in your car?

If you get into an argument with your spouse while drinking and decide to go sleep it off in your vehicle, you can be charged with a DUI. The officer may decide that you are in actual physical control of your car even though you are asleep. The prosecutor might look for evidence that you were operating your car before you fell asleep. For example, if you drove away from your house to the corner store before returning to your driveway, the prosecutor might find witnesses who saw you driving.

Get help from a DUI attorney near me

If you are facing drugged DUI charges, it is important for you to speak to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact DiCindio Law today by calling us at (610) 430-3535.

 

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Michael DiCindio

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