FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2013-01-18
Pennsylvania police officers are targeting drivers who are driving under the influence of drugs and substances other than alcohol. Driving under the influence of drugs does not just include illegal drugs; instead, prescription drugs and certain medicines obtained over the counter can also cause driver impairment and thereby fall under the DUI statute.
Many Pennsylvania DUIs involve more than just alcohol
According to a Moon Township police officer, the department believes that about half of the drivers charged with DUIs are also under the influence of other substances. It is more difficult to test drivers for a drug-related DUI than a routine alcohol-related DUI, but the state has specially trained officers, called drug recognition experts (DRE), to evaluate people suspected of a driving under the influence of drugs.
These drug recognition experts perform a standardized evaluation of the driver that is similar to an evaluation for the detection of alcohol. The evaluation includes a field sobriety test, blood pressure tests, breath tests and checking the driver’s pulse. One drug recognition expert says he relies on the driver’s eyes to determine if the driver is under the influence of drugs.
What kinds of legal drugs affect one’s ability to drive?
How do drivers even know that they are illegally operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs? Generally, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping medications affect one’s ability to drive. These are the most common legal drugs with which hospitals and officers see problems or abuse.
Professionals also say that people taking new medications or taking more medication than prescribed may have their ability to drive affected. Medication affects people differently, so, when starting a new medication, it is a good idea to avoid driving until the patient knows the precise side effects of the medication. One doctor recommends taking a few days to get used to a new medication before driving.
Another problem is combining drugs with alcohol. One doctor says that it is common for some simple over the counter medications to have a drastic effect on the ability to drive when combined with even one or two drinks. Also, taking several drugs at one time, even in a way that is safe for one’s body, can be dangerous when it comes to the ability to drive. Both doctors and police officers agree that the biggest problem is combining multiple drugs or combining drugs and alcohol.
People charged with drug-related DUIs will face serious penalties including jail time, license suspension, heavy fines and possible drug classes and treatment. A criminal defense attorney can help people charged with these crimes and make sure that their rights are protected.