Pennsylvania officers receive training to help catch drugged drivers
In an effort to reduce the risk of accidents connected to driving while under the influence of drugs, officers throughout the state of Pennsylvania recently received special training. The training, put together by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is designed to provide officers with the information they need to conduct drug evaluations during standard field sobriety tests. The training session provided officers with tips like checking for redness in certain areas of the eye and how to test for the inability to properly track moving objects without moving one’s head. A drug enforcement recognition expert recently told a local CBS affiliate that almost 30 percent of all driving under the influence (DUI) arrests are the result of drug driving violations. That translates to almost 15,000 arrests in Pennsylvania that were connected to the use of illegal or legal drugs. Officers noted that even prescription drugs can lead to charges if the use of the medication causes the individual to be unable to safely operate his or her vehicle.
What is drugged driving? In Pennsylvania, driving under the influence of drugs falls within the same category as driving under the influence of alcohol. If an officer suspects a driver is inhibited due to the use of medication or illegal drugs, the driver can be charged with a DUI crime. Unlike the use of alcohol, which can be measured with a breathalyzer test, drugged driving can be a complicated offense to test for. While alcohol is quickly filtered from the body, many drugs can remain within the body days after use. As a result, determining the actual level of impairment at the time of the accused crime is difficult. Instead, Pennsylvania uses specially trained officers referred to as drug enforcement recognition experts to aid in determining whether an individual is impaired by drugs at the time of the alleged offense. Blood tests or urinalysis can then be used to confirm that drugs were present in the driver’s body.
What are the penalties for drugged driving in Pennsylvania? Penalties associated with a DUI for drugged driving conviction in Pennsylvania are harsh. A first offense can receive up to six months imprisonment, a $5,000 monetary penalty, one year license suspension and placement in an accelerated rehabilitation program. A second offense can receive five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, 18 month license suspension and an inpatient rehabilitation program.
What defenses are available for DUI drug driving charges? Unfortunately, the legal use of a medication is not a valid defense. As a result, a prescription will not suffice to overcome charges. However, as is true with any stop, officers are required to follow certain procedures during a stop. If these procedures are not followed the driver’s rights may have been violated. If the driver’s rights are violated, any evidence found may not be allowed in court. This could ultimately result in a reduction or even dismissal of charges. As a result, those charged with a DUI connected to the use of drugs should contact an experienced Pennsylvania DUI lawyer to better ensure their legal rights are protected.