Drugged Driving in Pennsylvania

Drugged Driving in Pennsylvania

As a DUI defense attorney in Philadelphia, I’ve defended people who’ve been accused of driving under the influence of drugs. In Pennsylvania, it is against the law to drive, operate or be in the physical control of a moving vehicle while under the influence of any of the controlled substances described in The Controlled Substance Act (P.L.233, No.64) and classified under Schedule I, II, OR III for controlled substances. These substances can be medically prescribed (Schedule I) or not medically prescribed (Schedule II), or a metabolite of a prescribed or non-prescribed substances (Schedule III). A person will be arrested and convicted if:

  • there is any amount of any of these substances in the blood,
  • the person is under the influence of any combination of drugs to a point where he does not have the ability to safely drive a vehicle, operate or be in control of a vehicle in motion, or
  • the person is under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol to the point the person can not safely drive a vehicle, operate or be in control of a vehicle in motion (75 Pa. C.S.A §§ 3802(d)(1)-(3)).

Pennsylvania’s Zero Tolerance for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Pennsylvania is also a state that has zero tolerance when it comes to driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Stated in Pennsylvania’s drug laws, zero tolerance is described as “per se.” In Pennsylvania, per se drugged driving laws were enacted for cannabis, cannabis metabolites, and other controlled substances (75 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 3802(d) & 34 Pa.B. 919). This means that an individual can be arrested and charged with a DUID if an officer has mere reasonable suspicion that a person has a trace amount of drugs in his or her system while in control of a vehicle. On April 30, 2011, Pennsylvania changed its traceable amount from 5ng/ml to 1ng/ml of THC in the blood stream. Moreover, an officer’s reasonable suspicion that the person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be used as actual proof, just as proof of general impaired driving can be used. A driver can also be arrested if the use of any non-controlled substances, such as prescription medication, impairs his or her ability to drive in a safe manner.

Drug Recognition Experts

Sometimes, it can be difficult for officers to decide whether an individual is under the influence of any drugs while behind the wheel. Currently, officers are accustomed to determining if a person is under the influence of alcohol, based on the odor, the use of a PBT Breathalyzer or other alcohol sobriety tests. However, with drugs, the methods of determining influence are different. In such case, Pennsylvania utilizes methods derived from the Drug Evaluation and Classification program that specially trains officers to become certified Drug Recognition Evaluators/Experts or DREs. DREs are often called to scenes to assist other officers in ascertaining the source of a person’s driving impairment.

Penalties for Drugged Driving in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the penalties for an individual’s incapacity of a controlled substance (§§ 3804(c) depends on how many offenses the individual has had previously, if any. A judge may order an offender to complete up to 150 hours of community service as part of the list of penalties (§§ 3804(f). Other penalties per conviction include the following:

First Conviction, Misdemeanor

  • Incarceration for minimum of 72 consecutive days; maximum of 6 months,
  • Minimum fine of $1,000; maximum $5,000 (§§ 3804(c)(1)(i)-(iv),
  • Driver’s license suspended for 12 months (§§ 3804(e)(2)(i),
  • Participation in an alcohol highway safety school (§§ 3804(c)(1)(iii), and
  • Adhering to all drug and alcohol treatment requirements (§§ 3804(c)(iv).

Second Conviction, Second Degree Misdemeanor

  • Incarceration for a minimum of 90 days; maximum of 5 years,
  • Minimum fine of $1,500 (§§ 3804(c)(2)(i)-(iv),
  • Driver’s license suspended for 12 months (§§3804(e)(2)(i),
  • Participation in an alcohol highway safety school (§§ 3804(c)(1)(iii)
  • Adhering to all drug and alcohol treatment requirements (§§ 3804(c)(iv).

Third or More Convictions, Second Degree Misdemeanor

  • Incarceration of a minimum of 1 year; maximum of 5 years,
  • Minimum fine of $2,500 (§§ 3804(c)(3)(i)(iv),
  • Driver’s license suspended for 12 months (§§ 3804(e)(2)(i), and
  • Adhering to all drug and alcohol treatment requirements (§§ 3804(c)(iv).