Even if you were not drinking, you can still be charged with a DUI. A DUI punishes dangerous driving activity which can include BOTH drugs and alcohol. Mixing drugs and driving, whether it’s medicinal marijuana or legally prescribed muscle relaxers, is just as illegal as driving drunk and can also constitute a DUI offense. Doctor’s orders are no defense to drugged driving charges.
In the event that you have illegal drugs in your system, you will be charged with a DUI automatically. On the other hand, if you are under the influence of over-the-counter or prescription medication, DUI charges can result only if you are found to have a decreased ability to operate a vehicle, or if the medication you are on is known to result in an intoxicated state.
“Per Se” Intoxication
You do not have to actually feel as if you are drunk or high to be convicted of a DUI crime. States have what are known as “per se” DUI laws. This means that the states have established specific conditions that, once met, will result in a DUI charge.
While it’s more difficult to prosecute drivers charged with driving under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol, 15 states, including Pennsylvania, have what are known as “per se” drugged driving laws. These DUI laws make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of certain drugs in one’s system.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, DUI crimes can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. Penalties will also differ depending on the state in which the crime is charged. Below are some common penalties resulting DUI convictions:
- Prison or jail. It’s very common for someone convicted of a DUI to have to serve at least some time in jail or prison. Misdemeanor charges can result in up to a year in jail, while a year or more in the state prison is possible for anyone convicted of a felony offense. In some states, felony convictions bring the possibility of five years or more in prison.
- Fines. In addition to incarceration, someone convicted of DUI will also likely face a fine. The fine amount differs widely, ranging from a few hundred dollars for first-time misdemeanor convictions to up to $10,000 or more for a felony conviction.
- Probation. If a court sentences you to probation for a DUI conviction you are allowed to serve your punishment while remaining free from jail or prison. Probation usually lasts at least 12 months, but sentences of up to three years or more are also possible. While on probation you must agree to abide by a range of court required conditions. If you fail to meet these obligations the court can impose additional penalties. The specific obligations can differ slightly, but they typically involve meeting regularly with a probation officer, agreeing to submit to random drug and alcohol testing, completing a substance abuse program, not going to places where alcohol is served, finding or maintaining employment, paying all required fines, and not committing more crimes or drunk driving offenses.
- License suspension. When you are arrested for DUI after the police find your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, you will have your license to drive immediately suspended. This is not a criminal penalty because the ability to drive a car is not considered a legal right, but rather a privilege. Even if you are not convicted of a DUI crime you can have your license suspended for 60 days, 90 days, or longer. This suspension is a civil process and is essentially a separate trial than your criminal trial for DUI. Repeat offenders or felony offenders can face suspensions of a year or longer.
Contact Brian Zeiger
An experienced attorney can help you determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, it is critical to have an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf. Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your rights. Contact The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 for a consultation, and let us help you.