Merely Having Drugs in Your System Exposes You To PA DUI Prosecution

Instead of a dry, boring article, the following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Attorney Leckerman on the subject.

Interviewer: Today we’re talking about DUI / DWI, as it relates to being arrested for drugs and not alcohol. So we’ll start with Pennsylvania. The first question is, when you’re pulled over, got arrested, and cited with DUI in Pennsylvania; Does having drugs in your system mean that you’ll be convicted automatically?

Kevin Leckerman: It depends on the drug. For instance, if you have an illegal drug, like marijuana or cocaine, in your system then most likely you will be convicted unless you can attack the test results or some of the other areas of the DUI prosecution. You can first attack the car stop, the arrest, and then you can attack the testing and whether that was done properly. Just having a certain amount of an illegal drug in your system in Pennsylvania is going to equate to a conviction. The courts do not care about whether you were under the influence of those drugs at the actual time when you were driving in order for you to be found guilty.

Interviewer: You’ve had cases where a person smoked marijuana 1,2 or even 7 days before they drove and they still had enough of it in their system that it caused a problem for them and caused them to be charged with DUI?

Kevin Leckerman: I’ve had cases like that. It’s incredible in Pennsylvania that you can be convicted for essentially smoking marijuana many days prior or potentially a week prior. The psychoactive component of marijuana (THC) is maybe not even in your system during the time that you were driving the vehicle or certainly at the time the blood was taken from you. But there’s a component of it, called a metabolite, which can be found in your system many days after smoking. And if you have even one nanogram of that metabolite in your system, which is an extremely small amount, it is enough for the government to go forward and prosecute you. So it’s a really small amount. Studies have shown that chronic users, who have totally abstained from smoking marijuana for seven days, still will have the metabolite and even the active or psychoactive components of THC in their system seven days after they stop smoking. So you may not be under the influence at all of marijuana when you’re driving your car. And technically you’re still guilty of DUI.

This same principle applies to other drugs as well, like cocaine, LSD, PCP, and methamphetamines. A driver may have used the drug earlier in the day or a day prior. The drug is not going to affect driving ability but will still be found in the blood or urine. Small amounts of these drugs will give the prosecution a case for DUI.

Interviewer: When you said that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania “doesn’t care”, does that mean that prosecutors truly don’t care or they just prosecute these cases as if you had just smoked? Do they understand these situations and there is leeway in trying to successfully argue this in front of the judge and the prosecution?

Kevin Leckerman: I imagine there are one or two prosecutors out there who have some compassion. However, in my experience, most prosecutors do not care whether you smoked marijuana a week ago, or whether you’re an angel. They’ll still go ahead and prosecute. In Pennsylvania, the majority of the prosecutors I have come across draw a very hard line when it comes to dismissing a DUI case; especially, when drugs are involved.

By Kevin Leckerman

Attorney Kevin Lekerman
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