Arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or a Controlled Substance in Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania? 

A drug DUI charge, otherwise known as a DUID offense, applies to driving while under the influence of illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine and marijuana, along with prescription medications. If you are accused of DUI based upon taking or using drugs or controlled substances, you should begin taking steps to protect your rights by contacting an attorney with experience prosecuting and defending Drug DUI cases.

What are the penalties for a Drug DUI offense in Pennsylvania? 

All drug DUI charges are considered highest tier or third tier offenses, which are the most severe DUI charges under Pennsylvania law. These offenses carry serious penalties, as follows:

  • First Offense: Ungraded misdemeanor conviction carrying mandatory minimum jail sentence of 72 hours, 12-month driver's license suspension and mandatory minimum fine of $1,000

  • Second Offense: First-degree misdemeanor conviction carrying mandatory minimum jail sentence of 90 days, maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, 18-month driver's license suspension, and mandatory minimum $1,500 fine.

  • Third Offense: Third-degree felony conviction carrying mandatory minimum jail sentence of 1 year in state prison, maximum sentence of 7 years in prison, an 18-month driver's license suspension, and mandatory minimum $2,500 fine.

Learn more about PA DUI Laws and Penalties here

Drug DUI Charges Defined

Section 3802 of the Motor Vehicle Code prohibits driving when there is present in your blood:

  • Any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance, or a metabolite of that substance, which includes Heroin and Marijuana

  • Any amount of a Schedule II or III controlled substance, or a metabolite of that substance, if you have no prescription for that medication

  • A combination of drugs which impair your ability to safely drive a vehicle

  • A combination of alcohol and drugs which impair your ability to safely drive a vehicle

  • A solvent or noxious substance in your system

How are Drug DUI cases investigated in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania? 

Typically, Drug DUI cases are handled in a similar manner as DUI cases for alcohol. First, prior to stopping your vehicle, police will look for evidence of erratic driving, such as swerving, weaving, speed fluctuations or evidence of a recent auto accident. 

Second, after stopping your vehicle, the police will look for physical clues of impairment, such as bloodshot and glassy eyes, dilated pupils, slurred or slow speech patterns, sleepiness or drowsiness, odors of marijuana or track marks, disheveled clothing, and other evidence that you are under the influence of a drug. 

Third, police will ask you questions about recent usage of drugs or alcohol. Any admissions you made to the police officer about the recent usage of prescription or illegal drugs or medications will be used against you in court. 

Fourth, the police will administer field sobriety tests, which include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus to detect irregular eye jerking patterns, the Walk and Turn test, the One-Legged Stand, and other divided attention tests. Successfully completing certain field sobriety tests may give police evidence that you are under the influence of a particular drug. For example, marijuana users typically will not demonstrate irregular eye jerking patterns for the HGN test, which will lead the officer to suspect marijuana usage. 

Fifth, if arrested or if you give consent, police may search your vehicle for evidence of drugs and paraphernalia. For example, if the police find needles in your vehicle, it may help bolster a case that you drove under the influence of heroin. Likewise, if police find a marijuana roach in your vehicle's ash tray and the vehicle smells like burnt marijuana, the officer will likely conclude that you smoked marijuana and drove. 

Sixth, you may be brought before a Drug Recognition Expert, who will interview the arresting officer and conduct around a dozen physical tests and examinations to determine if you are under the influence of a drug. If prosecuted for a Drug DUI, the DRE who examined you will be called to testify at trial.

Finally, as there is no breath test to detect for drugs, you will be asked to submit to a blood test to determine if there are drugs or drug metabolites in your system. The crime lab will then analyze the test results to see which controlled substances are in your system, and if they exceed the allowable limits under state law. If you have refused the test, the government will attempt to prove impairment through all previous investigation methods.

Can I be charged with DUI for taking Prescription Drugs & Medications? 

We've all seen the warning labels on prescription medication bottles: "Do not operate heavy machinery" or "Use caution when driving." What your doctor should be telling you is this: "Do not drive a vehicle or you could be arrested for a Drug DUI."

You can be arrested, charged and convicted of DUI for taking your prescription medications if they impair your ability to drive safely. Typically, prescription medications that have a stimulant or depressant effect on the central nervous system are capable of causing impairment, including vicodin, oxycontin, xanax and adderol. Prescription DUI charges are common for recovering heroin addicts who take methadone. While methadone may be a necessary component of your treatment program, you may very well be charged with a DUI if the prosecution believes it impaired your ability to drive a vehicle.

Before taking any pain, anti-depressant, or anti-anxiety medication, you should ask your doctor if you are safe to drive while taking the prescribed dosage. You should also follow the doctor's strict instruction for dosages.

What to do next - Call the Zuckerman Law Firm

Never assume you are guilty of a Drug DUI offense simply because there were drugs found in your system. On our DUI Crimes Overview page, we outline several methods with which our DUI Lawyers fight DUI cases. 

DUI cases are very detail-specific, so it is essential to have a results-oriented lawyer with outstanding experience. Attorney Dave Zuckerman has PROSECUTED AND DEFENDED hundreds of DUI cases, and is familiar with court procedures in all Western Pennsylvania counties. 

Our goal on every DUI Case: Get your Drug DUI case dismissed or minimize consequences. Call us today at 412-447-5580 for a free consultation.