Defenses for Drugged Driving Cases

February 17, 2020

Statistics show that drugged driving incidents are becoming increasingly common. Drugs like opioids, cocaine, sedatives, methamphetamine, and marijuana can affect a driver’s behavior in different ways. Illicit drugs or improperly using prescription medication can produce aggressive behaviors, impaired memory, drowsiness, and impaired judgment, combing these drugs with alcohol can increase the effects.

Anyone who is facing charges for drugged driving can be facing severe penalties. However, there are some defenses available to the accused.

Drugged Driving Laws in Pennsylvania

Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol is strictly prohibited in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. Drivers can be arrested and charged when a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion that the person has drugs in their system while they are in control of a vehicle.

Specifically, Pennsylvania’s DUI laws state that anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs cannot physically control their motor vehicle. The law also forbids driving under the influence of any drug that will impair the ability to safely drive.

Fines and Penalties

Drugged driving conviction penalties are based on the offender’s prior offenses within the past ten years, offenses include:

  • First Offense: Considered a misdemeanor, this can result in fines from $1,000 to $5,000, 72 hours to six months in jail, and a one-year license suspension.
  • Second Offense: These are first-degree misdemeanors and can lead to fines between 1,500 to $10,000, 90 days to five years in jail, and an 18-month license suspension.
  • Third Offense: These offenders may receive fines from $2,500 to $10,000, one to five years in jail, and an 18-month license suspension.

Every offender must submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation before sentencing. Judges will consider these results and may have the offender complete a treatment program. If a passenger is under 18 and was in the vehicle, there will be additional penalties, including higher fines and more jail time. Offenders may also have to participate in a DUI victim impact panel and complete community service. Offenders must also install ignition interlock devices for one year before their licenses are reinstated, although they may be able to get limited driving privileges before then.

Possible Defenses

Some defendants may claim involuntary intoxication, this is when someone ingests drugs without their knowledge, like when someone accidentally consumes the wrong prescription medication. Others can use the invalid traffic stop defense, meaning that the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion for making the initial traffic stop. A faulty chemical test administration defense can also be used; this is based on erroneous chemical test results or inaccurate field sobriety tests. In other cases, a mitigating circumstances defense may be applied.

Defendants who claim that they were under the influence of an over-the-counter medication or a prescribed drug, like an antihistamine or antidepressant, will likely not have a successful outcome.

West Chester Criminal Lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Represent Individuals Charged with Drugged Driving

If you are facing drugged driving charges, it is best to speak with an experienced lawyer about your options. Our knowledgeable West Chester criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes will give you legal counsel about your case and will fight to protect your rights. Contact us online or call us at 610-431-7900 for a free consultation about your case. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we also serve clients in Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.

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