Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana (DUI-D)
Did you know you can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Pennsylvania, even if it has been days or weeks since you smoked? You are probably asking yourself “how is this possible”? It is possible because Pennsylvania is a metabolite state, so that having a slight amount of the inactive metabolite of THC or marijuana in your system means you are considered driving under the influence. Even if you are not high and even if you do not feel like you are under the influence of marijuana, you could still be arrested and charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania.
In Bucks County and all other counties of Pennsylvania, if you are charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, you will be placed in the highest tier for sentencing purposes and you will face the harshest penalties and highest fines for DUI. You will be facing minimum mandatory jail time, even for your first offense!
In Pennsylvania, state and local officers are trained as Drug Recognition Experts or DRE’s. A DRE’s purpose is to identify, arrest and prosecute drug-impaired drivers. In 2018, Pennsylvania State Police made 19,518 DUI arrests in Pennsylvania. Of these arrests, 1,016 involved DRE evaluations. This number is expected to increase each year.
Marijuana and Metabolites
There are only a few states in the United States where you can be arrested and convicted of DUI or DWI for smoking marijuana hours or days earlier. Pennsylvania is one of those few states. If an officer suspects that you are driving under the influence of a controlled substance such as marijuana, he will likely obtain your consent or a search warrant to draw your blood. Your blood will then be tested by a lab to determine if there are any controlled substances or alcohol in your system. They will test specifically for both the metabolite (Delta-9 Carboxy THC) or the active ingredient (Delta-9 THC) of marijuana.
The main ingredient in marijuana that causes you to feel high is THC.
Even a slight amount will be enough to arrest and prosecute you for driving under the influence. The Department of Health publishes a notice of the minimum levels of Schedule I, II and III controlled substances or their metabolites that must be present in a person’s blood for the test results to be admissible in a prosecution. For marijuana (cannabinoids) the minimum amounts were lowered in July 2017. The threshold for the active ingredient is only .05 nanograms/milliliter.
On April 17, 2016, Governor Wolf signed the Medical Marijuana Act into law. This is a good thing for those who are suffering from chronic illness or pain and need marijuana to function in their daily lives. Those patients who are under the care of a registered physician and comply with all the rules and regulations under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program could still be facing criminal penalties if stopped while driving. The law only protects you from using and possessing marijuana when it is done within the rules of the program. The law does not protect you if an officer arrests you for being under the influence of marijuana while driving.
Having a valid medical marijuana card does not prevent you from being arrested and convicted of DUI. Even if you are legally prescribed medical marijuana, when an officer has reason to believe that you are “under the influence” you can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana.
The focus on Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
Many states, including Pennsylvania, will continue to take action to prevent impaired driving – which includes driving under the influence of marijuana. This will likely lead to an increase in DUI-D marijuana arrests in the upcoming years.
The Center for Disease Control reported that in 2016, more than 1 million drivers in the United States were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or narcotics. Nationwide, drugs other than alcohol are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes. This number includes illegal drugs and prescription drugs. The study also revealed that marijuana use is increasing and that 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system. Marijuana users were also 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than those drivers with no signs of marijuana use.
The push to decriminalize marijuana and the passing of medical marijuana laws will not help you if you are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. If you have been charged with a DUI or DUI-D (marijuana) in Pennsylvania, call a skilled DUI Attorney who can explain to you what your rights are and can help you prepare your best defense. To schedule a free consultation, contact the office of Saile & Saile to schedule your appointment with Caterina Saile, Esquire.