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State College Criminal Defense Law Blog

Cannabis training for police and what it means for drug charges

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana a few years ago, but law enforcement is still trying to figure out how to monitor for drugged driving and other related crimes. Police currently have no way to accurately verify whether someone with marijuana in his or her possession has a valid medical marijuana license, which may result in improper drug charges. Law enforcement is currently not able to access the database that keeps track of licensed medical marijuana users. 

One the reasons for this disconnect is because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is a federal agency, which does not recognize the state's medical marijuana law. This may complicate a person's ability to own a firearm, as the organization requires an applicant to answer honestly about his or her drug use. There is confusion in Pennsylvania about what law enforcement can do and how police officers can accurately charge individuals without violating constitutional rights.

Some drug charges no longer lead to suspension of license

Pennsylvania laws regarding various different types of drug offenses are strict, and if convicted, a person could face significant consequences. Up until very recently, one of those consequences including the suspension of that person's license. That is no longer the case, as recent changes in state law mean that a conviction of drug charges will not affect driving privileges.

The state was able to suspend a person's right to drive due to drug offenses that may have been completely unrelated to driving. Now, however, a person can keep his or her license, even if charged with or convicted of the use, sale or possession of controlled substances. This is good news for those who believed that old laws infringed on the rights of individuals facing certain drug-related crimes. 

Man facing drug charges after law enforcement pulls him over

A Pennsylvania driver finds himself in serious legal trouble after a routine traffic stop. The man was stopped by a police officer for having a headlight out. After speaking with the man, police allegedly noticed drug paraphernalia in his vehicle, and supposedly the man was not honest with police about his identity. He is now facing drug charges, driving with a suspended license and more.

According to police, the man acted suspiciously when law enforcement approached the outside of his vehicle. He informed the officer that he did not have his wallet with him at the time, and he allegedly gave him a false name. After the initial conversation with the defendant, the officer called for additional support to come to the scene. 

Think twice before using a fake ID

Being away at college is probably your first taste of independence as you experience the world on your own for the first time. Being away from home can be an invaluable experience as you learn to care for yourself and balance academic responsibilities with your social life.

If you’re under the age of 21, you may feel limited in the enjoyment of your newfound independence because you cannot go to the bars with your older friends yet. A fake ID may seem like a smart solution but it’s not, as the risks outweigh the benefits.

Field drug test kits are often notoriously unreliable

In college towns across Pennsylvania and the United States, police officers are on high alert for the types of crimes normally associated with college life – including drug possession. Unfortunately, while many police departments will gladly invest in officers and patrols, they aren’t willing to invest in quality field testing kits that help identify illegal drugs outside of a lab setting.

Too often, the end result is that “offenders” are arrested for possessing substances which are perfectly legal and not decidedly not drugs. In most cases, the errors are cleared up by further lab testing. But in the meantime, innocent people can spend weeks or months in jail because they can’t afford the high costs of bail.

  • PACDL
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association Your Other Partner
  • Centre County Bar Association
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