Put simply, any substance you ingest breaks down into by-products called metabolites. Breath tests for alcohol-related DUIs can’t actually measure the amount of alcohol in your blood. Instead, they measure two metabolites in the body. Measuring these by-products of alcohol works in these cases because it leaves your system quickly. This means that the presence of metabolites supposedly indicates how much alcohol remains in your system at a particular time.
What about drug-related DUIs and metabolites?
Not all charges for driving under the influence involve the use of alcohol. Some charges result from the use of illegal — or even legal — drugs. On the other hand, a drug-related DUI can’t rely on metabolites as easily. Many drugs take a significant amount of time to leave the body. Therefore, by the time of your arrest and any subsequent testing, metabolites could still be in your body even if the effects wore off before you got behind the wheel.
Pennsylvania is a per se state, which means that a certain amount of detectable metabolites at the time of the traffic stop could still result in a conviction. Authorities request a blood or urine test to check for drug metabolites.
Take marijuana for example
Marijuana remains one of the most used drugs in the United States. Its metabolites stay in your system up to a week, which would be long after the “high” wears off. While some states decided to legalize marijuana recently, it’s still illegal here in Pennsylvania. More than one nanogram of THC metabolites in your system at the time of your arrest could be used as per se evidence that you were driving under the influence of drugs. As for any other drug, any detectable amount could lead to a drug-related DUI. Please note that even medical marijuana users risk such a charge.
So how could I be arrested if I wasn’t “high” when the officer stopped me?
In drug-related DUI cases, authorities often rely on other evidence of impairment. If an officer observed your vehicle weaving in and out of the lanes, drifting over the centerline or any other evidence of impairment while driving, he or she could initiate a traffic stop. Any suspicion of impairment after a brief investigation during the traffic stop might lead to field sobriety tests. An arrest will more than likely happen if, in the officer’s subjective opinion, you suffered from impairment.
What can I do?
Even a first-time offender could face jail time and a license suspension of 12 months. A conviction could also have other adverse effects on your personal and professional lives. Depending on the circumstances, challenging them could result in a reduction or dismissal of the charges. If a police officer arrested you on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, there’s still hope. A review of the traffic stop, any roadside tests and the results of a blood or urine test could reveal mistakes, weaknesses or discrepancies in the prosecution’s case.
In order to increase your chances of achieving the best outcome possible, you would more than likely benefit from enlisting the advice and assistance of an attorney. He or she understands what to look for and can advise you of your legal options.