There are three types of drug DUI cases in Pennsylvania. Prescript drug DUI cases. Illegal drug DUI cases. The third category is Medical marijuana DUI cases.
Prescription Drug DUI Cases in Pennsylvania
Time and time again I speak to new clients and they don’t understand how they can be charged and possibly convicted of a DUI based on them taking their legally prescribed drugs. Well, they can. Pennsylvania law states that if a person is impaired on drugs they are guilty of DUI. Doesn’t matter if they are prescribed or not. In fact, the law treats being impaired on drugs in Pennsylvania as the highest tier of punishment.
That is right. If a person is impaired on alcohol they get punished in the lowest tier of punishment. If it is a first offense and a person is impaired by alcohol they get probation and no license loss. However, if they are impaired on their prescription pain pills, or Xanax they go to jail for a minimum of three days and lose their license for one year. Definitely not equal treatment. If it is a second or third offense DUI the punishments get really harsh. It can result in a felony conviction for a third offense.
That is bad news. The good news is there are many defenses to these cases. People are prescribed medication because they are ill. A person may be prescribed Ritalin because they have problems concentrating. Some people are prescribed Oxycodone because they were in a bad accident and have constant pain. There are many scenarios as to why people are prescribed medication. Some people are prescribed Zoloft because they are suffering from depression. With the medications people live more normal lives. They can focus more, they feel happier. They can move around with less or no pain. As to driving they can definitely function better. But then they get pulled over for a tail light out. Not turning on a turn signal or speeding. Then once a police officer finds out they are on prescription drugs they have them step out of their car and perform tests that in no way resemble how humans walk and stand. Then a mere traffic infraction turns into a DUI arrest. There are many defenses to prescription drug DUI in Pennsylvania. Many more than alcohol and there is far less stigma surrounding prescription drug DUI cases because many jurors and judges take prescription medication or know people who do. Therefore, they can see themselves in the potion of the defendant.
Illegal drug DI cases in Pennsylvania
There are four categories of illegal Drug DUI cases in Pennsylvania. Being impaired by them. Merely having them in a person’s blood regardless of impairment. Having schedule 2 or 3 drugs in your blood but without a prescription and lastly, having these drugs in your blood in combination with alcohol.
Being impaired is easy to understand. If a person takes illegal drugs and they are impaired by them they are guilty of a Pennsylvania drug DUI, Then, there is having a Schedule 1, or unprescribed drug in your blood. That is an automatic DUI even if a person is not impaired. The most frequently used drugs that can get a person in trouble for this are Heroin, methamphetamines, and marijuana.
The third category of Pennsylvania drug DUI comes from having unprescribed Schedule 2 or 3 drugs in your blood. These are drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone used for pain medication when prescribed and abused when unprescribed.
The last category of illegal drug Dui is when they are in combination with alcohol. Even if a person’s blood alcohol level is lower than .16, having illegal drugs or their metabolites in a person’s blood takes the punishment to the highest level. Even if it is only an inactive metabolite of the drug. For example, having Delta-9 Carboxy (the inactive metabolite of marijuana) in your blood with a .085 blood alcohol content will be treated as being the highest level DUI.
Medical Marijuana DUI cases in Pennsylvania
As in any drug Dui, if you are impaired it is illegal. What is very disturbing to medical marijuana patients is that our current DUI law in Pennsylvania makes it illegal to have THC or its metabolites in your blood. Even if you are not impaired. This is totally wrong. However, there have been some recent appeals court cases that make these charges easier to defend.
Despite all of this there are many defenses to these cases. From the admissibility of the drug test results based on minimum detection levels all the way to whether or not the drug actually impaired a person. Each case is unique. When it comes to drugs a person can’t be put into general categories like they can if they are charged with an alcohol DUI.