The traffic stop of Pittsburgh Steelers running backs, Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, serves as a very direct example of “zero tolerance” in PA’s Driving While Impaired” statute.
I’ve heard a few comments along the lines of “Wow, I can’t believe he was DUI in the middle of the day!”
The tone presumed a high level of impairment justifying the stop. But in PA any amount of a controlled substance is per se, Driving While Impaired, regardless of whether the driver is actually impaired or not. The mere presence of cannabinoids is in the bloodstream places the offender in a “highest level” of impairment category when it comes to sentencing, license suspension, ignition interlock and fines.
For example, a DUI offender with a .149 BAC second offense faces a mandatory 30 days incarceration. A DUI offender with a minimal amount of cannabis and no contemporaneous impairment faces 90 days for a second offense.
Mr. Bell, presuming he has no prior DUI convictions, will be afforded the opportunity to accept a diversionary program for first time offenders. If, however, he is found to have even a minimal amount of cannabinoids in his system within the next 10 years the penalties get significantly more serious.
I believe we need more practical and effective ways for law enforcement to detect marijuana impairment so that that can focus their resources on keeping impaired drivers off of the road and not compelled to pursue cases because of an unworkable “zero tolerance” statute. Because cannabinoids can stay in one’s system for weeks and sometimes months after the cessation of use, it is impractical to use mere presence as a basis for criminal prosecution.