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The Drug DUI and the Problems with Urine Testing

Urine tests have been used in the past to successfully prosecute drivers charged with driving under the influence of controlled substances. In comparison to its limited use in prosecuting alcohol-related DUI offenses, urine tests are much more useful in prosecuting drug-related DUI offenses.

The 2004 DUI Law, Section 3802(d)(1) is essentially a zero tolerance DUI offense with respect to Schedule I narcotics (such as heroin and marijuana) and non-prescribed Schedule II (such as opiates) and Schedule III controlled substances. The statute prohibits a person from driving, operating or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while the person has any of those prohibited controlled substances, or their metabolites, in their blood. A urine test showing the presence of these prohibited controlled substances, or their metabolites, is indicative of the presence of those substances in the driver's blood.

However, Section 1547(c)(4) of the Vehicle Code tasked the Pennsylvania Department of Health to establish minimum amounts of Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III controlled substances that must be detected in the blood in order for the test result to be admissible in a prosecution for DUI, DUS-DUI or an interlock violation. The Department of Health published those minimum detectible levels in the February 13, 2004, issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Here's the rub, there is no corresponding minimum detectible level for Schedule I, Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substances that must be found in a urine sample in order for the test results to be admissible in a DUI, DUS-DUI or interlock violation prosecution. As a result, the Commonwealth will be required to present expert testimony, subject to cross-examination, to establish the detectible level of the particular controlled substance at issue in a drug-related DUI prosecution to establish that the substance was in fact present in the driver's blood, as well as urine.

The Commonwealth must still prove that there was a sufficient level of a Schedule I, II, or III drug present in the urine in order to render a person "incapable of safe driving." The mere presence, alone, without expert testimony is not sufficient to show this. Rather, the burden is on the Commonwealth to show what is a "minimum detectible level."

If you've been arrested and charged with drug-related DUI offenses for a Drug-related DUI, contact an experienced attorney at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC at (717) 268-4287.