Every Friday we take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about Pennsylvania DUI so we can clear up any misconceptions and provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information about PA DUI laws and related topics. Today:
Dear PA DUI Attorney,
My son was recently arrested near Harrisburg and charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID). The police also confiscated some marijuana from his car. My question is, is this case worth defending?
DUI Drugs convictions in PA are given the same penalties as someone convicted of DUI of the highest level. These penalties include
- Prison Sentence from 3 days up to 6 months
- 12 month license suspension
- $1,000-$5,000 fine
These are the penalty ranges for a first time offense. If there are prior offenses, these penalties will increase. Please see our Pennsylvania DUI penalty summary for more details. He may also face additional penalties if convicted of drug possession charges. For possession of under 30 g of marijuana without the intent to distribute it, the penalties include a maximum of 30 days in jail. Any possessory drug offense in Pennsylvania also caries with it a loss of driver’s license as well. Please see an experienced criminal defense and DUI attorney for more details.
Without the complete case information I cannot give you any specific advise but generally speaking I would recommend that you seek legal counsel to defend this case. Besides investigating whether there were any constitutional rights violated in the search, there are a number of angles from which to defend a DUI drugs case. The mere possession of marijuana is not enough evidence to prove DUID case by itself. The Commonwealth has the burden to prove that (1) Your son was in fact impaired (2) this impairment was due to marijuana. To do this, the prosecution will need to furnish the evaluation of a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) or expert pharmacological testimony. The DRE program is a certification introduced by NHTSA. There is a very precise 12 step procedure that needs to be followed to opine impairment due to drugs, if you believe that it is a valid method (I and all true pharmacologists do not). There are many inherit weaknesses in the DRE protocol which may yield doubtful results and false positives. This needs to be closely examined by an experience DUI defense lawyer.
I would highly recommend that you make sure any attorney you choose is very familiar with the Drug Recognition Expert protocol and has handled DUI drug cases. All of the DUI Attorneys at The McShane Firm have passed the DRE certification overview program and have experience defending DUI drug cases.