Posts Tagged ‘PA DUI laws’

Written by Bill DeNardo. Posted in Legal Blog

“Are you Serious? I was arrested for DUI just for taking my medication?”

I had a person retain me recently for a DUI where the basis of the DUI was not alcohol, but her prescribed Ambien. My client’s reaction, understandably, was how can I be arrested for this when all I did was follow my Doctor’s orders? Many of us assume that DUI’s result from being drunk on alcohol or high on street narcotics (pot, hash, cocaine, etc.). It came as a surprise to my new client that, in Pennsylvania, a DUI can result from driving while impaired by a validly prescribed medication.

DUIs that result from medication create an array of issues. The statute does not delineate an object test to measure impairment. While there may be tests to determine the amount of medication in your system, there is no set standard to define how that amount of medication translates to level of impairment. What often happens is the arrest is made based on the police officer’s opinion as to how impaired the driver was.

Over my fifteen years in practice, I have vigorously defended motorists charged with Driving Under the Influence of prescription medication. I have successfully challenged the police officers’ opinions of impairment through cross examination and expert analysis provided by forensic Toxicologist. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI charge relating to medication, call the Law Office of William DeNardo.

Written by Bill DeNardo. Posted in Legal Blog

Will Missouri v. McNeely Have an Impact on PA DUI Laws?

By William DeNardo

PA DUI lawyers would be wise to take heed of the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Missouri v. McNeely (full opinion can be found here:  Missouri v. McNeely.pdf.

The Majority held, in part;

The Question presented here is whether the natural metabolization in the bloodstream presents a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases. We conclude that it does not, and we hold, consistent with general fourth Amendment principals, that exigency in this context must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances.

The dicta of this opinion creates a question as whether Pennsylvania’s sentencing enhancement practice would pass constitutional challenge. The opinion establishes that:

1) The natural metabolizaton of alcohol in the blood stream does not create a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement;
2) Therefore, the state, absent proof of exigency, must obtain a warrant before requiring person to submit to a blood test;
3) Whether the warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case on the totality of the circumstances.

Currently, the PA statute 3804© allows for a refusal to be used against a person when determining punishment. Whether a person refused is determined by an officer. As Pennsylvania DUI lawyers know, refusing to provide a blood sample creates a sentencing enhancement. This enhancement subjects the convicted toe highest tier / strictest level of punishment. This enhanced punishment is implemented with or without an exigency or with or without the obtaining of a warrant. As an experienced PA DUI lawyer, it would appear that the McNeely decision will ultimately have a major effect on 3804©.