Drunk driving has been a point of focus for legislatures, prosecutors and law enforcement on and off for 30 or more years now. Since the 1980s, the legal penalties for Driving Under the Influence or “DUI” have become stiffer and stiffer, even for a first offense. And, while protecting the public against dangerous drivers may be a laudable goal, overzealousness can sometimes creep in to such prosecutions and create a situation where a person’s life can be ruined.
This may be even more apparent when it is taken into consideration that DUI can be charged against someone, even if he or she has not been drinking. If an officer believes he or she has probable cause to think a driver is under the influence of a drug, he or she may make an arrest ad a prosecutor might bring charges. This includes people who may have taken a substance prescribed to them by their physicians.
To make their cases in court, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sometimes turns to certain individuals who are called “Drug Recognition Experts” (DREs). These people are supposedly trained in identifying how people who are under the influence of certain substances present themselves. They will identify certain behaviors or characteristics that are supposed to be evidence that an individual has been driving under the influence of a substance.
As will all human beings, however, these people are not always right. Because a conviction for DUI carries harsh penalties, such as loss of license, fines and jail time, Pennsylvania residents should be prepared to defend themselves. This is especially true if they are accused of being under the influence of illegal substances, as this might also lead to drug charges. Those who find themselves in this position may wish to consider consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney.