Archive for July, 2018

Spotlight Issue: What does the legalization of medical marijuana mean for DUI law in Berks County?

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Pennsylvania legalized marijuana for limited medical purposes in August of 2016 and dispensaries are now operating. Although the law has been passed, there is still much work to be done in order to implement the program and to ensure that medical marijuana usage is legal and safe. One area in which there is a still a question about the legality of medical marijuana is Pennsylvania DUI law. Currently, marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug which means that it has been determined to have no legitimate medical usage. Obviously that is no longer an appropriate classification based on the current law. However, the outdated classification continues to leave Pennsylvania DUI law in limbo.

Section 3802(d) of the Pennsylvania DUI code criminalizes driving with any amount of a Schedule I drug or the metabolite of any Schedule I drug in the driver’s blood. There is no requirement that there be evidence of impairment for a conviction under this section – but evidence of impairment is required for other sections. Of course police cannot test a driver’s blood without a sufficient basis to believe that he or she is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but as long as that standard is met, the mere presence of marijuana or its metabolite is sufficient for a DUI conviction (amount in the blood must exceed 1ng/ml for tests results to be admissible in court). Notably, there is no exception made for those drivers who are legally prescribed medical marijuana. Compare this to a legal prescription for a medicine such as Xanax. The mere presence of Xanax in a driver’s blood is not a crime. Instead, there must be evidence that the driver is impaired because of the medication. Arguably, that is how medical marijuana should be treated as well.

Pennsylvania State Police have publicly raised this discrepancy, but Pennsylvania lawmakers have yet to act. This area of the law will undoubtedly change at some point, but it may be too late for some drivers. Conviction for a first offense under 3802(d) – a controlled substance DUI – is a mandatory 72 hours of incarceration.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Berks County, especially if that DUI involves driving with THC in your blood while you had a valid prescription for medical marijuana, you need to consult with a knowledgeable DUI attorney to discuss your options. Contact our Reading, DUI lawyers at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.

Spotlight Issue: Loss of driver’s license for driving with suspended registration

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

In Pennsylvania, many motor vehicle offenses result in a driver’s license suspension that isn’t immediately apparent to the driver. One such offense is driving a vehicle with a suspended registration. Vehicle registration can be suspended for 3 reasons – lapse in insurance coverage, as the result of a citation or accident, or because of unpaid Turnpike tolls. Most suspensions are for 3 months. Appeals of a PennDot license suspension must be filed within 30 days of the date that the suspension notice is mailed. The appeal is heard by the Court of Common Pleas. Registration suspension can often be ended immediately by providing proof of insurance coverage and paying a large fine. Once a vehicle’s registration is suspended, if the car is driven by the owner, or with permission of the owner, the owner can be charged with violating 75 Pa. C.S. 1371. The criminal penalty for this offense is only a fine of $100 – $500 and it is handled in front of a Magisterial District Judge. But, a conviction will result in a separate and automatic 3-month driver’s license suspension by PennDot. This may be an unexpected consequence for many people who have pled guilty to the traffic ticket.

A client recently came to our office after pleading guilty to driving her vehicle when the registration was suspended. She was not represented by an attorney at that time. After her conviction, this client received a notice of a 3-month license suspension from PennDot. Aside from the difficulties associated with any license suspension, this client was in the process of obtaining a new job and needed a valid license to be hired. She came to our office for help. Attorney McAllister filed a timely Notice of Appeal. Any summary conviction in front of a Berks County Magisterial District Judge can be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas in Reading, PA. Attorney McAllister brought with him to that hearing evidence that the client was not aware that her registration was suspended and proof that she had restored her registration on the same day that she received the traffic citation. Attorney McAllister was able to negotiate with the Assistant District Attorney and his client was allowed to plead guilty to a different offense that did not result in a license suspension. This client’s job was no longer in jeopardy.

If you’ve been charged with driving a vehicle with a suspended registration, or any other traffic citation in Berks County, contact our experienced criminal law attorneys. Even though you think that the citation will only result in a fine, there could be more serious consequences that will surprise you. Call us at 610-372-5128 or email at info@enmlaw.com.