What most people don’t realize about the DUI charge in Pennsylvania as it relates to drugs is that a driver does not have to be under the influence of drugs to actually be convicted of DUI.
The Pennsylvania DUI statute has two twists, as it regards drugs, that make distinguishes it from many of the other drunk driving laws across the country. Firstly, the Pa. statute (75 Sec. 3802) makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any Schedule II or III controlled substance in the system (as defined in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act). For example, an example of a Schedule II or III drug would Codeine. Under the Pa. Law, if an individual operates a vehicle with any (in bold) amount of Codeine in their system, and that person does not have a prescription for it, then its a DUI under Pa. law. There is no requirement that the individual be under the influence of the drug. Example: A Montgomery County man suffers a headache and takes a Codeine pill from his wife who has a valid prescription for it from a doctor for back pain. Two days later, the man is pulled over by the police, his blood is taken, and the laboratory results come back showing nothing but the Codeine in his system. He has no prescription for it, his wife does. That’s a DUI. Fair? Fair has nothing to do with it.
The Pa. law also provides that no illegal drugs can be in your system whatsoever or for any reason. While this may make more sense to most people, consider the following scenario: A man from West Chester smokes a small amount of marijuana at a party. Two weeks later he is pulled over by the police and his blood his tested. He has not consumed alcohol that day or done any drugs since the night of the aforementioned party. In fact, he is not impaired at all but perfectly sober. The lab results come back and shows positive for marijuana – the same marijuana from two weeks prior. This is because marijuana can stay in the system for up to thirty (30) days – and this is a DUI.
I have seen plenty of each of these in my practice as a Pennsylvania DUI Defense Lawyer. With regards to the mixture of driving and drugs: To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Drive safely.