Can drugs be considered under DUI laws?

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2022 | Drunk Driving

Most people understand that driving while under the influence of alcohol can result in jail time and hefty fines. However, many Pennsylvania drivers wonder whether driving while under the influence of drugs can similarly result in a DUI charge.

Rising rates of drivers testing positive for marijuana

Many states have relaxed their laws governing marijuana use; some have fully decriminalized it. Pennsylvania statutes still outlaw marijuana, but several cities have decriminalized the drug. In addition, legislation is currently pending to legalize cannabis statewide.

Analysis from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that drunk driving rates among weekend nighttime drivers have dropped in recent decades.

However, in that same time period, the percentage of drivers who test positive for marijuana has also risen, prompting a shift in law enforcement priority toward tackling the “driving while high” phenomenon.

The difficulty of roadside testing for impairment from drugs

The push to develop effective, accurate roadside testing for drug impairment, particularly from marijuana, is full of snags. Alcohol roadside tests, usually in the form of breath tests, are fairly straightforward. They detect the concentration of alcohol in the blood, which correlates to the level of impairment. Most people have similar tolerances, making uniform standards easy to implement in Pennsylvania.

Drugs like marijuana, on the other hand, are very different. The substance can stay in the body for weeks, which might result in a positive test even when the driver is not currently under the influence. Also, determining the level of impairment resulting from a combination of drugs, or of drugs mixed with alcohol, makes matters more complicated.

Moving forward, drivers can expect roadside testing for DUI resulting from drug use to become more efficient and widespread. However, for now, proving intoxicated driving under the influence of drugs is a difficult job for law enforcement.