Driving under the influence of alcohol – also known as DUI – is exceedingly dangerous. Equally dangerous is a less-known activity that can still lead to serious injuries and criminal charges: driving under the influence of controlled substances. Pennsylvania has very strict laws about operating a vehicle while using drugs, and it is important that every driver know about them.
Pennsylvania’s controlled substance laws for drivers
The public’s attitude regarding the recreational use of drugs has changed dramatically over the past few years. However, Pennsylvania still bans many controlled substances including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. It also strictly prohibits the use of drugs while driving a motor vehicle of any sort. In our state, it is illegal to:
- Operate a vehicle with any amount of a controlled substance in your blood
- Operate a vehicle while impaired due to the influence of a controlled substance or prescription medication
- Operate a vehicle under any combination of alcohol or controlled substances
The threshold for cannabis is one nanogram per milliliter of blood for drivers. If a law enforcement officer finds that you have a level higher than this in your system, you may face DUI charges – even if you have a prescription for medical marijuana.
Penalties and prevention
To discourage drugged driving, the state imposes strict penalties on anyone convicted of DUI. A first-time offense can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and jail time of up to six months. Three or more offenses can result in jail time of up to one year and a fine of $2,500. Unfortunately, even these consequences do not completely deter drugged driving.
In some instances, drivers underestimate the effects of the substances they use. An act that many people consider harmless – say, smoking a joint – can have serious criminal consequences. Driving under the influence of controlled substances can also stem from serious dependency issues. Whatever the reason or turning to drugs, it is up to every driver to keep their blood clean and their heads clear for the road.