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Pennsylvania drivers could face marijuana DUI charges

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

The culture of the United States is always changing. Part of that culture includes establishing laws, which thereafter can be amended, replaced, or even revoked. Given the change in laws, the legality of some activities can be affected.

One example is the use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. 

Recreational marijuana and its status around the country

In 2012, Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana. Today, nearly a decade later, many other states have enacted laws allowing marijuana for recreational or medical use.

A laid-back attitude could turn costly for Pennsylvania drivers

Every state enacts laws relating to marijuana use. Because some states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, it has many people acting as if marijuana use is legalized across all fifty states. This misguided action even occurs in Pennsylvania, where recreational marijuana is still illegal.

In Pennsylvania, any use of marijuana that is not medically prescribed to an individual can be a costly mistake, particularly for drivers. 

Driving under the influence of marijuana

In Pennsylvania, a drunk driving charge does not just apply to drivers found operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, it also applies to drivers suspected of driving under the influence of controlled substances, which includes marijuana. 

Strict Pennsylvania policy

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has implemented what is known as a “per se” DUI law for marijuana. In basic terms, this means that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania only needs to prove that the driver had at least one nanogram per milliliter of THC in his/her system at the time the person was driving and NOT that the driver was impaired while driving.

With that being said, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is still required to prove that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle and probable cause to arrest the driver for a DUI offense.

Lasting repercussions

Many individuals are aware of the steep fines and possible incarceration time associated with a DUI. The mandatory fines and incarceration time are most severe for people found guilty or who plead guilty to a DUI involving controlled substances. However, the effects of a DUI conviction continue long after the payment of a fine or incarceration.

For young offenders, a DUI on a criminal record may affect college admissions, student loan eligibility, and even housing rental opportunities. Working adults face similar affects, but also problems relating to their professional license.

While numerous states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, it continues to be illegal in Pennsylvania, unless medically prescribed.