Pennsylvania takes a strict approach to driving and marijuana use. Any presence of marijuana, and that driver could find themselves facing criminal charges for a driving under the influence (DUI) or DUI of drugs (DUID) violation.
With this approach it is not surprising that the state is known for a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to these situations. The presence of even one nanogram of THC per milliliter is enough to support DUI charges. What’s even more frustrating is the fact that the state recently legalized the use of medical marijuana. Instead of allowing for an exception if the driver can show they have a legal excuse for the presence of the medication, the law specifically states legal entitlement is not a defense to the charges.
Pennsylvania lawmakers consider changes to DUI laws
Lawmakers throughout the state are pushing for reform. Senate Bill 167 is currently under consideration and would result in the removal of medical cannabis from the current law’s definition of a controlled substance. The lawmakers state that the changes will only allow for DUI charges based on marijuana use if the officer has actual proof of impairment. Mere presence of the drug would not be enough to support criminal charges.
Current penalties are harsh
Until that reform becomes reality, if the state accuses you of a DUID it is wise to take the allegations seriously. If convicted, the current penalties are harsh and can include up to six months imprisonment and a $5,000 penalty for a first offense. A second offense can lead to five years imprisonment and one $10,000 penalty, and the penalties continue to increase with consecutive offenses.
Defenses are available if accused of DUID
The law requires officers to follow certain protocol when conducting a traffic stop. Officers that do not follow this protocol are in violation of their duty and any evidence gathered during that stop would not be admissible in court. This is just one portion of the charges to review for an error that could result in a reduction or dismissal of the criminal charges.
Drivers who are accused of a DUID are wise to seek counsel. Simply agreeing to the charge will not make it go away. Instead you could face the harsh penalties outlined above as well as additional consequences that could make it difficult to move on with your life.