It is well-established that, under Pennsylvania law, it is unlawful to operate a vehicle while intoxicated. This means not only that people cannot drive if they are impaired due to the consumption of alcohol but also that they can be accused of DUI crimes if they operate a car while under the influence of metabolites or controlled substances. Recently, a Pennsylvania court issued a ruling discussing the evidence the Commonwealth must introduce to support a conviction for a DUI controlled substance. If you are charged with driving while under the influence of prescription or illicit drugs, it is advisable to contact a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss your case.
The Defendant’s Arrest
It is alleged that the investigating officer responded to a call reporting that a man was unconscious inside an SUV. When he arrived at the scene, the officer observed the defendant sleeping in the driver’s seat of the SUV, which was parked by an intersection. The keys were in the ignition, and the vehicle was running. The officer awoke the defendant and asked him a series of questions. The defendant was unable to spell or write his name, was drooling, and his speech was slurred.
It is reported that the defendant agreed to submit to field sobriety testing, and the test results indicated he was impaired. He consented to a blood test, the result of which indicated the presence of numerous controlled substances. The Commonwealth charged him with DUI controlled substance and convicted him following a bench trial. He then appealed.
Evidence Demonstrating Guilt for DUI Controlled Substance
On appeal, the defendant argued that the prosecution failed to establish that he operated his vehicle while under the influence of controlled substances, and therefore his conviction could not stand. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed his conviction.
The defendant relied on caselaw asserting that the Commonwealth needed to produce evidence that would support the inference that he drove the vehicle while intoxicated and could not merely rely on the fact that he was behind the wheel with the motor running to show that he was in control of the vehicle. The appellate court rejected this argument, noting that the totality of the evidence presented at trial established that the defendant was in actual physical control of his vehicle at the time in question.
Further, the appellate court explained that the term operate did not require proof that the vehicle was in motion; instead, evidence that the defendant had actual physical control of the vehicle was sufficient. Thus, it affirmed the defendant’s conviction.
Meet with an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney
Many controlled substances impact people’s cognition and reaction time, and if people drive while under the influence of such substances, they may be charged with DUI offenses. If you are faced with DUI charges, it is smart to meet with an attorney to assess your options. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer with the knowledge and resources needed to help you seek a favorable outcome. You can contact Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a conference.