Drug Crimes Archives | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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What Happens if You’re Arrested with Fentanyl-Laced Pills?

While heroin was once the most prevalent drug in Pennsylvania, law enforcement officers say fentanyl use has surged.

This synthetic opioid is more potent than heroin and causes more than 15 overdose deaths per day in the state, according to PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The dangers of this drug, along with increased availability, make it a significant concern for state policymakers.

How Prevalent is Fentanyl in PA?

In the past few years, fentanyl has risen in popularity with drug users and their dealers. AG Shapiro stated in a special report, “Fentanyl has rapidly replaced heroin as the dominant opioid in Pennsylvania. Last year, our Bureau of Narcotics Investigation seized more fentanyl than the last four years combined.”

Since 2017, Pennsylvania law enforcement has arrested more than 8,100 drug dealers and traffickers. They have confiscated approximately 5.65 million doses of fentanyl.

About 20% of fentanyl seizures are in pill or tablet form. The pills can have anywhere from .02 to 5.1 milligrams of fentanyl. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) indicated that a lethal dose of fentanyl could be as little as two milligrams.

What are Fentanyl-Laced Counterfeit Pills?

Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug under the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance Act, the same level as cocaine, Adderall, and oxycodone. This indicates that it has medicinal purposes, but there is a high level of abuse as a recreational drug.

Fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills are manufactured to look like other types of drugs. Because powdered fentanyl resembles many other drugs, it is often mixed with heroin, cocaine,  methamphetamine, and prescription opioids. The powdered substance can also be used to produce fentanyl laced weed. These drugs are hazardous when users do not know they are laced with fentanyl.

The DEA has images of real vs. fentanyl-laced pills, including commonly counterfeited drugs, such as:

  • Oxycodone
  • Alprazolam
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Amphetamine
  • Adderall
  • Dexedrine
  • Focalin
  • Methylin
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta

There are slight differences between authentic pills and fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills. It is nearly impossible for an average person to tell the difference.

What Happens If You’re Arrested with Counterfeit Pills?

The Pennsylvania AG has come down on people caught with any amount of fentanyl, even counterfeit pills. If they prove that you possessed fentanyl, you will face time in prison and a significant fine.

Penalties for Any Amount of Fentanyl Possession

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 8 amended Title 18 Section 7508(b) and (d), which applies to fentanyl possession.

Any person in possession of a compound or mixture containing 1.0 gram or less of fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative, compound, or analog faces at least two years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

If the person is convicted of drug trafficking, they will face 36 months in prison and a fine of $10,000. The penalties significantly increase if the offense involves more than 10 grams of fentanyl.

Defenses to Counterfeit Pill Possession

Because the state is so strict about fentanyl possession, it is difficult to defend against possession charges. However, some defenses you could assert include:

  • Mistaken Identity – The police arrested the wrong person.
  • Not Your Drugs – The drugs seized by the police did not belong to you.
  • Illegal Traffic Stop – The police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
  • Unlawful Search and Seizure – The police did not have probable cause to search you or your property.
  • Unlawfully Obtained Evidence – The police did not lawfully obtain evidence, and it should be excluded from the case.

How Can an Attorney Help Me?

When facing fentanyl drug charges, an attorney can help you move through the legal process and protect your rights. Your lawyer will understand the law and how to use evidence to support your case. By working with an experienced legal representative, you will have a better chance of getting your charges reduced or dropped altogether.

Contact a Drug Possession Lawyer Today

The legal team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, is ready to take your case. We will listen to your story and help you make a reasonable decision about your next steps. We will be by your side whether you decide to take a plea bargain or take the case to trial.

Call us today at (412) 281-2146 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation of your case.

How to get Drug Paraphernalia Charges Dropped

One of the most common charges issued in the Pittsburgh area is drug paraphernalia charges. Many believe that an individual must be in possession of an illegal substance to be charged, but this is far from the truth. Drug paraphernalia charges relate to the various items that can be used to ingest, smoke, or shoot up drugs. This means that even if an individual has a pipe with very trace amounts of an illegal substance in it, they can still be charged and face jail time and a criminal conviction.

Drug paraphernalia charges should not be taken lightly, no matter how insurmountable they may seem. The best way to beat these chares is to contact Worgul Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC. We understand the severity of the consequences our clients are facing when charged with a drug paraphernalia offense, and we don’t want to let one mistake or misunderstanding rouin any of our client’s futures. Contact us today at 412-388-9721 for a free initial case consultation.

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What Is Drug Paraphernalia?

Equipment that is used for producing, concealing, or consuming illicit drugs is considered to be drug paraphernalia in Pennsylvania, and that includes Pittsburgh. Things that can be considered drug paraphernalia are bongs, miniature spoons, pipes, roach clips, needles, syringes, baggies, and pouches designed to carry these products. Federal law defines drug paraphernalia as “any equipment, product, or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”

Penalties For Possessing Drug Paraphernalia

Drug paraphernalia charges in Pittsburgh are harsh and often correlate to charges associated with possession of drugs. If an individual is convicted of a drug paraphernalia charge in Pennsylvania they could be facing penalties such as:

  • A misdemeanor charge on a permanent criminal record
  • A year in jail
  • Up to $2,500 in fines

For those who have been convicted of drug-related crimes previously, their penalties may be higher. The same stands for those who sell or provide drug paraphernalia to any under-age person, or any individual that is three or more years younger than the offender. These offenses can come with penalties such as:

  • 2nd-degree misdemeanor
  • 2 years in jail
  • Up to $5,000 in fines and court fees

Any individual charged with a drug paraphernalia charge could also be prohibited from obtaining a CDL or they may have theirs revoked if they already have a CDL. A CDL is a license that takes a lot of time and effort to obtain, therefore it can be seriously life-altering if it is revoked or suspended. Others may not be able to obtain certain jobs if they have a drug paraphernalia charge on their record, which may stop them from achieving their future dreams and aspirations.

Can I Be Charged With Drug Paraphernalia If I Am Not In Possession?

The simple answer is yes. Even if an individual does not have any illicit substance on their person, they can still be charged with drug paraphernalia if they have anything that falls under the drug paraphernalia guidelines. This is to curb individuals from carrying it on their person to sell to others, or to help deter them from consuming an illegal substance in the near future. Whichever the reason, a police officer does not need an illegal substance to charge an individual with drug paraphernalia. They only need reasonable suspicion. Especially if the paraphernalia smells like an illegal substance or appears to have been used to ingest, consume, shoot, or smoke an illegal substance.

Contact An Experienced Drug Paraphernalia Lawyer Near You In Pittsburgh

A lengthy jail sentence and significant fines can accompany a drug paraphernalia charge if not handled swiftly and seriously. Alone, a charged individual will have a hard time navigating the court system and standing up for themselves in court without legal knowledge. That is why it is so important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side through the whole process.

Many of our clients at Worgul, Sarna & Ness Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC have questions about whether or not they should speak to the police, or how to handle certain paperwork, or how these types of charges can affect their lives in the long run. Our dedicated team of attorneys will answer all of these questions and more. To learn more about how we can fight for your rights, and help you navigate the muddy waters that is the Pittsburgh legal system, call us today at 412-388-9721 for a free consultation.

How to Get Drug Trafficking Charges Dismissed

If you have been arrested for a drug crime like trafficking, you’re not alone. Between 2000 and 2018, more than 302,000 people were arrested for drug crimes in Allegheny County. Luckily, you have options to dismiss your charges depending on your case.

What Is Drug Trafficking in Pennsylvania?

Before we discuss how to beat drug trafficking charges, we should take a step back and understand what is considered drug trafficking in Pennsylvania. This charge goes by several names, including possession with intent to distribute and drug distribution, but the Statutes of Pennsylvania refer to it as drug trafficking.

Drug trafficking is the crime of importing, transporting or selling illegal controlled substances. It is a much more severe charge than drug possession. It is usually a felony, and prison and fines are determined by the substance and amount you’re accused of trafficking.

Here are six ways an attorney can help beat your charges:

1. Don’t Speak Without an Attorney Present

This guidance applies to almost any time you are arrested. No matter how friendly police may be or how much they try to get in your head, do not do it. You have a right to remain silent, and this is an excellent time to exercise that right.

The police are trying to get you to say something that will make it easier to convict you on a drug trafficking charge. And they are good at getting you to make mistakes — regardless of whether you are guilty of the crime.

2. Know Your Rights

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees you a right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Under the Fourth Amendment, police must have a warrant or probable cause to search your home, vehicle, or person unless you give consent to the search. If your arrest was made based on illegally obtained evidence, a judge might dismiss your charges.

3. Build a Bulletproof Defense

Building a compelling defense is critical. This is the argument your attorney will make against the prosecution.

The prosecution must show that you had a controlled substance in your possession and you distributed it or intended to do so. You might have a clear path to victory if you can build a defense that discredits any part of that.

Although each case is unique and requires a tailored defense, here are some common defenses to drug trafficking charges:

  • You did not distribute or intend to distribute the drugs.
  • The controlled substance in question did not belong to you.
  • You were unlawfully searched.
  • You were a victim of police entrapment.
  • You did not have enough of the drug to qualify for a trafficking charge under Pennsylvania law.

4. Preserve All Possible Evidence

The police and prosecutors will gather evidence to convict you of drug trafficking. You will likely need proof of your own to beat your charge. This evidence comes in many forms and depends on the defense you choose, but the most important thing is to preserve anything you might want to use as evidence in your trial.

Suppose you have text messages on your phone that show that you did not intend to distribute the drugs in your possession. In that case, you need to make copies of those messages. You can’t use evidence to get your charges dismissed when it disappears.

5. Consider Pre-Trial Diversion

People charged with drug crimes in Pennsylvania might be eligible for pre-trial diversion programs. These are programs like the Allegheny County Drug Court that allow participants to plead guilty to a drug crime and undergo drug treatment or probation instead of facing criminal penalties.

These programs often have strict requirements, and many trafficking cases will not be eligible. But a qualified attorney can advise you of your best course of action regarding these programs.

6. Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

Knowing how to beat drug trafficking charges is different than doing it. Beating a drug charge will involve mountains of legal experience and knowledge. That’s why it’s best to seek help from a trusted criminal defense attorney.

Your lawyer can advise you of your options and guide you every step of the way as you fight your drug trafficking charge. If you’re ready to get started, we’re prepared to hear from you. Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, at 412-281-2146 or online today.

What Makes Someone Ineligible for ARD?

A criminal conviction can do a lot of damage to your life. It gives you a record and takes away your freedom if you’re incarcerated. That’s why Pennsylvania created the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.

Rather than risk a conviction, people sentenced through ARD diversion programs have a chance to take rehabilitative measures (such as addiction treatment or anger management counseling) during a period of probation and have the charges entirely dropped. You don’t have to plead guilty, and the charges can be expunged.

But not everyone qualifies for ARD. To see if you’re a good candidate to enter ARD and get your charges dismissed and expunged, speak with a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer today. Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation.

Who Qualifies for ARD?

ARD is an excellent option for many first offenders, and people without a criminal history. While the prosecutor and the DA have to approve ARD, it is generally easy to get approval unless you are ineligible for some specific reason.

The following are the most common reasons people are ineligible for ARD:

  • The charge was not a non-violent offense.
  • You have a criminal record with multiple convictions, one of which was within the last 10 years.
  • You have participated in ARD within the last 10 years.
  • Your arrest was related to a DUI where a person was injured or killed.
  • Your arrest was related to a DUI with a passenger under the age of 14.
  • You have already been convicted for related charges at trial.

When is ARD a Good Option

If none of these apply to you, you probably qualify for ARD so long as you apply within the appropriate time limits. Once accepted, you have a second chance to get a clean slate.

ARD isn’t necessarily easy, though. You have to follow all the guidelines to the letter, pay the appropriate court fines, and stay out of trouble during the probationary period (usually 12 months).

For many of our Pittsburgh area clients, this is a great option that gets them back on their feet, but ARD isn’t for everyone. Sometimes a better option may be available, or they are ineligible for ARD. That’s why it is so important to discuss your options with an experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorney before deciding on what action to take.

Work with a Lawyer to Enter ARD

Determine your eligibility for ARD and get started with putting charges behind you. Call the experienced DUI lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation. Find out how we can help you get the best outcome possible, so you have the second chance you deserve.

Arrested in a Pittsburgh Drug Bust? Here’s What to Expect

A federal grand jury recently indicted 26 people in a drug trafficking scheme in Western Pennsylvania. U.S. Attorney Scott Brady connected alleged members of the gang, ‘Shot Boyz’ to the scheme as well as a number of violent incidents in the Homewood and East Hills areas.

This case was a part of a larger program by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, established in 1982 to investigate money laundering and drug trafficking. John Sleasman, the police chief of Latrobe, wrote the bust would drastically cut back on the amount of heroin and fentanyl coming into Westmoreland County.

While large scale drug arrests are a necessity, they can lead to bystanders being unfairly implicated to a drug bust. This is commonly seen when people struggling with addiction are caught up without knowing the extent of what’s going on.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our accomplished Pittsburgh drug lawyers realizes how complicated these situations can be and are here to help. If you’ve been indicted, charged or questioned about a crime after a drug bust, call (412) 281-2146 24/7 for a free consultation.

Getting Caught Up in a Drug Bust

How do police and drug enforcement officers learn about drug activity?

The police often receive anonymous tips from community members, officers on the street, informants, and other drug enforcement agencies about suspected drug activities. However, drug charges also result from other ongoing investigations or a “cold hit,” when officers stumble upon drugs or a drug transaction while investigating another crime.

How Are Penalties Determined after a Drug Raid?

Penalties for drug-related charges are determined according to a few key factors: the substance itself, the amount of the substance, what kind of activity the person was engaged in (e.g., using vs. selling), and their prior police record. Repeat offenders of serious drug crimes often receive harsher penalties than first-time offenders.

However, not all drugs are regarded equally. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous and addictive, and include drugs like heroin, peyote, LSD, MDMA, ecstasy, and marijuana. Schedule II includes drugs that have proven medical benefits but are still highly addictive, like cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription opioids and stimulants (e.g., OxyContin and Adderall, respectively). Schedule III, IV, and V drugs are all medications with a much lower risk of dependence, like ketamine, steroids, benzodiazepines, Soma, and Tramadol.

The length of jail time after a drug conviction depends heavily on the individual’s previous criminal record. Federal law states that simple drug possession is a misdemeanor that can get first-time offenders up to a year in prison. For subsequent offenses, though, individuals may face felony charges and additional jail time.

As for selling drugs, individuals found guilty of selling drugs face much harsher consequences. In Pennsylvania, possession with the intent to deliver is typically a felony, punishable with years or decades in prison. There are also aggravating factors like selling to minors that can increase the potential penalties.

Aside from PWID, someone arrested in a Pittsburgh drug bust could face charges for:

Worgul, Sarna & Ness Can Help You

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we understand the consequences of being involved in a drug bust, even if you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. With our understanding of Pennsylvania drug laws, record of having cases dismissed or reduced, and experience finding alternatives to jail in drug cases, we can help find the best way to get your life back on track.

Call us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation. We’ll explain your rights, your best options, and how we can help.

Charges for THC Vape Pen, Dabs & Wax in Pittsburgh

There are a number of ways to use marijuana. But unfortunately, there are also a lot of ways it can lead to criminal charges.

Vaping, dabbing, and smoking marijuana is incredibly popular, increasingly easy to get for medical marijuana patients in PA. And while our nation’s attitude towards cannabis is changing, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance in Pennsylvania. As a result, many people don’t realize the serious trouble they face when arrested for possession of a THC vape pen, wax, or other forms of concentrate cannabis.

No matter the form, if you are arrested in Pittsburgh for marijuana possession, Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC is here to help. We know the law and how to get the best possible result.

Don’t just accept a drug conviction. Call (412) 281-2146 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in Pennsylvania

You can be charged with possession of paraphernalia for having any item that may be used for ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise using drugs. The law is extremely broad and applies to otherwise legal items. As a result, a legal vape pen used to smoke marijuana would be considered drug paraphernalia in Pennsylvania.

You can also be charged with possession of paraphernalia, even if you are not charged with possession of marijuana. Furthermore, you can be charged with possession of paraphernalia even if the police did not actually see you use the vape pen.

Possession of a THC vape pen could mean up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine if convicted.

Possession of Marijuana Pens, Das & Concentrates

If arrested for possession of a THC vape pen, you could be charged with possession of marijuana if had a cartridge with THC concentrate or you otherwise had marijuana on you.

While possession of marijuana is not the most serious drug charge, there are some significant differences when it comes to the concentrates like wax, BHO, shatter, oil, or vape pens.

For example, possession of 30 grams or less for regular marijuana is a misdemeanor, and you face up to 30 days in jail and $30 fine. If you have more than 30 grams, you face up to one year in jail and a fine of $5,000.

THC concentrates, on the other hand, draw the line at 8 grams. If you are arrested and possess more than 8 grams of THC concentrate, regardless of form means facing up to one year in jail and a fine of $5,000.

A Marijuana Lawyer Can Help

An arrest for possession of a THC vape pen could involve multiple charges.

You may be charged with possession of paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. They also could file separate paraphernalia charges for every item in your possession. For instance, if you have papers, a grinder, a pen, and an empty baggie it could result in four separate charges for paraphernalia.

In addition, if you have more than 8 grams of THC concentrate, you could be charged with drug trafficking.

Prosecutors are notorious for piling on as many charges as possible. Their strategy is generally to “overcharge” people to pressure you into pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Hiring a marijuana lawyer levels the playing field. An experienced attorney will challenge your arrest, the evidence, and get inappropriate charges dismissed. They will speak on your behalf and represent you so that you can get a fair result.

Diversion programs that allow for dismissals and future expungement may also be an option for first-time offenders. With a lawyers help you can know your eligibility for such programs and how to get admitted.

Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

You might think that your marijuana charge is nothing to worry about. But even simple possession can result in jail time and a drug conviction on your permanent record. Let the attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC help you get the best possible outcome.

We provide clients with high-quality, aggressive legal representation, which may be the difference in your case. To schedule a free consultation, contact us at (412) 281-2146 to learn more about how we can help you.

How Drug Test Contamination in Pittsburgh Can Lead to a Dismissal

Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are trained to identify the presence of drugs in a person’s system. They also receive training to identify the drug in question.

As a result, police make drug arrests constantly. This leaves countless people worried about criminal penalties, damage to their careers, and the stress of going through the criminal system. However, evidence in drug cases becomes compromised all the time, and if a drug test sample was mishandled or contaminated, your case may be dismissed.

A drug lawyer at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC knows how to identify when these drug tests are contaminated and what it takes to resolve cases in your favor.

To discuss if a contaminated drug test sample can lead to having your Pittsburgh drug case dismissed, call (412) 281-2146 today for a free consultation.

Was the Drug Test Sample Mishandled?

Both urine and blood samples are used to detect the presence of an illicit substance. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) claims that most compounds can be identified up to two to four days after they are administered.

For example, amphetamines can remain in a person’s system for two to four days, whereas marijuana can be present for up to 30 days. However, some drugs only remain in the body for a few hours. As a result, police often administer drug tests after an arrest. This regularly leads to hasty and poor handling of test samples.

Mistakes After Taking a Drug Test

When the police administer a drug test, they must take steps to preserve the evidence and prevent contamination. In Pennsylvania, officers should store samples in special evidence lockers. When they are not properly stored, samples can be switched out or tampered with.

Police also frequently mislabel samples. If your drug testing sample was switched out with another person’s, you could be wrongfully charged with a serious drug crime.

Common Drug Labs Mistakes

Once your sample is collected, it may be sent to a testing facility. Unfortunately, many things can lead to a false positive.

When blood samples are left sitting around for long periods, they may decompose in ways that show an inaccurate reading. Degradation also occurs when the sample is opened too soon. Contamination might also happen when test equipment is reused or not properly cleaned. If residue from another person’s sample remains, your test may yield a false positive.

Drug Lab Misconduct

Another type of laboratory misconduct is “dry labbing.” This involves only testing a few samples among a collection. Instead of or subjecting each vial to rigorous testing, the scientist finds a few that are positive and then labels all of the samples with the same result.

This can be hard to establish, but if you believe that you have been victimized by inaccurate lab testing, it is important that you seek legal representation immediately.

Real World Examples of Drug Test Mishandling

In April of 2017, a chemist’s criminal misconduct led to the dismissal of nearly 20,000 Massachusetts drug convictions. The former employee of the Department of Health (DOH) apparently contaminated thousands of test samples intentionally, leading to false positives and criminal convictions. She also engaged in “dry labbing”. In total, 15,570 drug convictions were dismissed, and thousands regained their freedom.

Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Today

A drug arrest is a scary experience. You’ll be worried about what happens next and how to live with a criminal conviction. You may have to quit your job or spend significant time behind bars. But drug tests are clearly flawed and you have options to consider.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our team knows what to do and how to improve your case. By launching our own investigation, we may be able to prove that your drug test results were tampered with or contaminated. This can make all the difference in your case.

Call (412) 281-2146 now for a free legal consultation.

Why Are Police in PA Looking for Green Tongues in Marijuana DUI Stops?

Many people who have been pulled over throughout Pennsylvania are reporting that police checked their tongues for a green coating. This may seem very odd, but it has actually been a practice followed by many law enforcement agencies throughout the United States for several decades. Some members of law enforcement believe that a green tongue is a sign of recent marijuana use. Checking drivers’ tongues has increased as police in our state work to arrest those who get behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana. However, there are many concerns that this practice is unfair due to the uncertainty that revolves around its effectiveness. A marijuana DUI can have long lasting consequences, and you need to contact a skilled lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest.

The lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC have represented many Pittsburgh area residents after DUI arrests. We understand how the prosecutor will handle your case, and how important it is for you to clear your name. Contact our office today to speak with one of our lawyers about your arrest. Call us at (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form.

Some Police Believe a Green Tongue is a Sign of Marijuana Use

There is a lot of pressure on police to get intoxicated drivers off of the road. While DUIs generally stem from alcohol consumption, you can get a DUI charge for being under the influence of any drug; this includes marijuana and other substances used for recreational or medicinal purposes. Many law enforcement officers are under the impression that a marijuana user’s tongue will become green in some or all cases of consuming this Schedule I drug. Although it’s not employed in every roadside stop, checking your tongue might be one of several things police do after pulling you over.

Police must have reasonable cause to believe you are intoxicated before they can arrest you. Carefully observing you and properly gathering evidence is essential if they are to successfully charge you with a drug crime. An officer may ask to see your tongue or they may casually observe it while you speak with them. Other signs of marijuana impairment that police may be looking for include:

  • Odor: Police may feel as though the odor of your vehicle is strong evidence of the presence or use of marijuana.
  • Nystagmus of the eyes: The uncontrolled movement or shaking of a person’s eyes is considered to be a possible sign of marijuana use as well as alcohol intoxication. This can be observed in the horizontal or vertical movement of a person’s eyes, or when the eyes cannot stay still as the person stares straight ahead.
  • Unusual behavior with eye pupils: Dilated or constricted pupils, or pupils that seem to pulsate, can result from marijuana use. Police may apply bright light as they observe a person’s pupils.
  • Difficulty with physical coordination: A person who is under the influence of marijuana might have considerable difficulty with depth perception or balancing. Coordination skills can be assessed in a variety of short physical roadside tests.

How Your Lawyer Can Defend You After a Marijuana DUI Arrest

Looking for green tongues on those suspected of marijuana use is common. While this procedure can be found throughout the United States, there remains significant doubt about its accuracy. Officers have been checking for green coatings on tongues since the 1980s, and information regarding its use can be found in many police handbooks. However, courts throughout the country have been known to rule against prosecutors who rely on evidence of a green tongue to prove marijuana use and intoxication. This is because there is no definitive, scientific connection between marijuana use and a green coating on a person’s tongue. In fact, a Utah court has described the green tongue theory as a “hunch”, and therefore something that cannot be used as evidence against someone.

Prosecutor’s cases against intoxicated drivers almost never rely solely on evidence of a green tongue. Instead, police are trained to note numerous signs of possible marijuana use by drivers. Fortunately, a knowledgeable defense lawyer will be able to use their firm understanding of the law and science in your case in order to have your charges reduced or dismissed. When working to protect your rights after a DUI arrest, our firm will investigate the following:

  • Probable cause for your stop: Police must have probable cause to stop and arrest you. This can include erratic or unsafe driving, but solely basing your arrest on a green tongue is not fair and must result in your case being dismissed.
  • Witness statements: In addition to you and the arresting officers, there can be many other witnesses who saw you during or before your arrest. Their input can be very informative about what happened leading up to your arrest.
  • Physical evidence: Police may conduct roadside physical tests, and samples of your breath or blood may be collected. Unfortunately, it’s common for law enforcement to make mistakes while gathering this evidence, and such errors can have a significant impact on your case.

Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys LLC Can Help You

Being pulled over for a suspected DUI offense is a very stressful situation for anybody. You may be asked to provide evidence that can be used against you in court. Maybe people have been confused by law enforcement officers who inspect drivers’ tongues when making a traffic stop. Many police believe that a green tongue is a sign of marijuana use. While this is not something that is strongly backed by science, they still may look for it while they gather evidence against you. It’s important to contact your lawyer after you have been charged with Marijuana DUI. Our legal team understands how to protect your rights after an arrest, and we know how to successful help you through every part of the legal process that follows.

Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to speak with one of our Pennsylvania defense lawyers today. Call our office in Pittsburgh at (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form.

Pitt Develops THC Breathalyzer – More Marijuana DUIs are Coming

A handheld breathalyzer device that can detect THC has been developed at the University of Pittsburgh. While the device is not yet ready for mass production, it could be coming within a few months. This means the police will soon have a powerful tool to charge people with marijuana-related DUI.

The consequences of a DUI involving marijuana conviction can be severe, but you do not have to face your charges alone. Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC represents people across the Pittsburgh area who are facing DUI charges whether they involve alcohol, marijuana, or any other substance. With knowledge and experience, we will fight for your rights and make sure you get the best possible result.

Call us at (412) 281-2146or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.

New Technology Brings New Questions

The THC breathalyzer uses nanotechnology to detect the presence of several breath compounds, including THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. While the technology appears to be able to accurately determine the presence of THC, it cannot correlate the amount of THC to the level of impairment. In other words, scientists do not know what concentration of THC in the blood would reliably indicate that the driver is impaired.

Marijuana DUI in Pennsylvania

The question of how much THC is safe for drivers may be moot in Pennsylvania. Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle with any amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug in your system. While Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous with the highest potential for abuse, you should be aware that marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I drug. This means that you may be found guilty of DUI if you have any amount of marijuana in your bloodstream. This would typically require a blood test, but the device under development could change that.

Understanding The Prosecution’s Marijuana DUI Case

If you get pulled over, the officer may suspect that you are impaired. This may be because they smell marijuana, your eyes are dilated, and you are unable to speak clearly. At that point, they will require you to perform various field sobriety tests. Based on the officer’s observations, you may then be charged with DUI for marijuana. You may then requested to undergo chemical testing via a blood or urine test.

You should be aware that under Pennsylvania’s “implied consent law,” refusing to comply with the blood or urine test carries serious consequences. If you refuse, your license will be automatically suspended for 12 months, and you will have to pay significant fines to have your license reinstated. Furthermore, the prosecution can still charge you with DUI and rely upon the officer’s observations and other circumstances to get a conviction.

Potential Penalties of a Marijuana DUI

Marijuana DUIs are aggressively prosecuted, and the consequences are severe. If convicted for a first offense, you face the following punishment:

  • Mandatory six-month probation
  • License suspension of 12 months
  • Fines up to $300
  • Mandatory traffic school and possible drug treatment program

The consequences become more severe if you have prior DUI convictions. For example, if this is your second DUI, you could be facing up to six months in jail.

Contact a Pittsburgh Marijuana DUI Lawyer

A marijuana DUI or drug possession charge can have life-changing consequences if you are convicted. The best thing you can do is to get someone on your side to fight for your rights. The marijuana DUI lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC know what it takes to get you a fair result.

Don’t face charges alone – call us today at (412) 281-2146 or reach out online to schedule your free consultation.

Medical Professionals Charged with Drug Distribution

Prescription drug distribution has come under heavy enforcement due to the current opioid epidemic. Earlier this month Philadelphia doctor Richard Ira Mintz pleaded guilty in federal court to eight counts of illegally distributing prescription drugs. According to federal investigators, Dr. Mintz wrote and sold oxycodone prescriptions for approximately two years, some of which were sold to people he had never met or examined. He is facing a considerable prison sentence and heavy fines.

Law enforcement takes prescription drug distribution cases very seriously and the consequences can be severe. If you’re a medical professional who is under investigation and facing charges, the sooner you contact a criminal defense attorney the better chance you have of avoiding conviction. The attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can help you face these charges with an aggressive defense. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 or send an online request request to schedule a free consultation with one of our drug distribution defense attorneys.

Prescription Drug Distribution Charges Under Pennsylvania Law

The sale and distribution of prescription drugs are tightly regulated in Pennsylvania, perhaps for good reason – medical professionals have access to drugs that can be very dangerous or addictive when abused. Pennsylvania law 35 P.S. 113 governs the sale and distribution of prescription drugs. Medical professionals can face charges under the statute for violating the following sections:

  • 35 P.S. 113(a)(12): Prohibits anyone, including medical professionals, from obtaining prescription drugs by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge. Law enforcement could charge you with a crime under this section if it is alleged that you stole or gained access to the drugs by deceptive means.
  • 35 P.S. 113(a)(13): Prohibits providing prescription drugs to someone that you know or have reason to know is drug dependent without a valid prescription. You could be charged under this section for providing drugs to someone you have reason to believe is seeking a prescription because of addiction rather than medical need.
  • 35 P.S. 113(a)(14): Prohibits medical professionals from providing prescription drugs unless they are prescribed (i) in the good faith course of their professional practice; (ii) within the scope of the patient relationship; and (iii) in conformance with the general treatment principles of the medical profession. This provision is the one that most often results in charges for medical professionals. Note that the criteria are largely subjective, and medical professionals who are trying to help their patient can be wrongly charged with a violation of this section.

There are a number of other provisions in the statute that could also result in charges, but the above sections are the most common.

Federal Charges

Medical professionals involved in the distribution of prescription drugs also face possible federal charges under the Controlled Substances Act. Generally speaking, medical professionals are exempt from the Controlled Substances Act, provided that they are prescribing drugs for a “legitimate medical purpose” in the “usual course of his professional practice.” If federal law enforcement agents believe that you have provided prescription drugs without a valid medical reason or outside the scope of your practice, you could face charges under the Controlled Substances Act.

The possibility of federal charges can be very worrisome. Federal agents often have much broader powers and authorities than state law enforcement, and defendants may face an exhaustive investigation followed by an aggressive prosecution.

Potential Consequences

Prescription drug charges can carry serious consequences and are often prosecuted as aggressively as a case involving illegal drugs. Under Pennsylvania law, the severity of the penalty will depend on the nature of the drugs involved and other factors surrounding your case. For example, distribution of Schedule I or Schedule II drug (which includes many opiates, opium derivatives, and morphine) is a felony charge with up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Federal charges under the Controlled Substances Act carry similarly heavy consequences, but will also give significant consideration to the amount of drugs involved. Federal sentencing guidelines will also require the judge to consider whether your case involved serious injury or death.

Professional Implications

Being charged with the illegal distribution of prescription drugs can also severely impact your ability to practice as a medical professional. Simply being charged can prompt disciplinary proceedings and result in the revocation or suspension of your license, even if your charges are dismissed or you are acquitted. Licensing boards have broad authority to investigate the circumstances of your case and make their own determination that you have violated their ethical or professional standards.

Contact a Pittsburgh Drug Charge Defense Attorney

As a medical professional, you have a lot to lose if you are convicted of illegal prescription drug distribution. You could be facing years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, and loss of your medical license. Don’t delay and jeopardize your future – contact an experienced drug defense attorney before it’s too late. The attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can help you face these charges and get a fair result. Call us at (412) 281-2146 or contact us via our online contact form to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.