Alcohol is not the only substance that can get you arrested for DUI. In fact, driving while impaired on drugs, or “DUI-D” is also grounds for a DUI case. Drug-related DUI’s are governed in Pennsylvania under 75 Pa C.S.A. § 3802(d):
Controlled Substances: An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle under any of the following circumstances:
1. There is in the individual’s blood any amount of a:
(i) Schedule I Controlled Substance;
(ii) Schedule II Controlled Substance; or
(iii) metabolite of a substance under subparagraph (i) or (ii).
2. The individual is under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs the individual’s ability to safely drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
3. The individual is under the combined influence of alcohol and a drug or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs the individual’s ability to safely drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
4. The individual is under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance in violation of 18 Pa. C.S. § 7303 (relating to the sale or illegal use of certain solvents and noxious substances).
Under Pennsylvania law, you can be charged with DUI-D for driving after ingesting illegal or legal drugs, even if you have a prescription. If you take narcotic painkillers such as Percocet or Vicodin, or take Xanax for anxiety, you can receive a DUI-D if it impairs your driving. Police officers are trained to recognize someone who is under the influence of drugs. Behaviors indicative of this include bloodshot or glassy eyes, trouble walking or standing straight, and unusual speech patterns. After being arrested, a blood test is the most common method used in Pennsylvania to detect drugs and their metabolites (byproducts – which can also be illegal to have in your blood). You can even be arrested for DUI while driving on lawfully prescribed substances or over the counter medications.
Pennsylvania’s “Zero-Tolerance” Policy
Pennsylvania has adopted a Zero-Tolerance policy towards DUI-D. That is, if you are driving with any amount of an illegal substance in your system, you are guilty of DUI-D. This is what is called a per se law. By the letter of the law, an individual can be charged with DUI-D if he has marijuana in his system – even if he last smoked it several weeks ago.
In Pennsylvania, DUI’s are graded using a Tier system. DUI-D falls under the highest tier (Tier 3), which carries with it the same penalties as driving drunk with a BAC of .16% or more. As such, the penalties are the most severe:
- 3 days to 6 months in jail
- 12 month license suspension
- Fines between $1,000-$5,000
- 90 days to 5 years in jail
- 18 month license suspension
- Fines between $1,500-$10,000
- 1 to 5 years in jail
- 18 month license suspension
- Fines between $2,500-$10,000
Like alcohol DUI and other offenses, first-time offenders are sometimes given the opportunity to complete an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. Offenders who successfully complete ARD will have their record expunged, as long as they do not receive another DUI within 10 years. You can read more about ARD here.
When fighting a DUI-D, the same defenses as a DUI can be used. These included arguing that the stop was illegal, that the person charged was not driving the vehicle, and that the tests were not conducted properly. You can read more about DUI defenses here.
If you are charged with DUI-D, do not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Fairlie & Lippy for a free initial consultation. One of our attorneys can help you get your life back on track.