On September 18th, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reaffirmed that Pennsylvania has what is essentially a zero-tolerance policy towards operating a vehicle under the influence of non-prescribed, controlled substances. In Commonwealth v. Wilson, 2014 WL 4637244, the Court held that, in drafting the DUI laws, the state legislature did not intend to require any time limitations on chemical testing for controlled substances. A blood test indicating any amount of controlled substances can be sufficient for a DUI conviction.
At around 11:55 PM on February 25, 2012, Tarique Wilson was stopped for suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Philadelphia. He was then transferred to the Philadelphia Detention Center for processing, where his blood was eventually drawn and tested. However, on the evening in question, the chemical testing unit was busy with 25-30 individuals each requiring a process that typically lasts approximately 13 minutes. Wilson’s blood sample was eventually drawn at 2:35 a.m., and tested one minute later. At his municipal court hearing, Wilson moved to suppress the evidence of his positive drug test, arguing that over two hours had passed between the time he had driven and the blood draw. The municipal judge granted Wilson’s motion, finding section 3802(d) ambiguous as to whether any time-limitation applied to those accused of driving under the influence of controlled substances as it does to alcohol. The Commonwealth appealed.
In reversing the trial court’s decision, the Court, applying basic canons of statutory interpretation, found the absence of a specific two-hour requirement in the language of the statute to be persuasive that the legislature did not envision a time limit on testing for controlled substances after driving. Unlike alcohol cases, Pennsylvania law prohibits these controlled substances in any amount in a driver’s blood.