Driving While Impaired by Marijuana Standards Begin to Coalesce in United States
Automobile Accidents Caused by Pot-Impaired Drivers:
As more and more states begin to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, state legislatures and governors are sharpening their focus on the creation of legislation to address the prospect of individuals driving while impaired as the result of using marijuana.
Development of Per Se Impairment Standard is Elusive
A preliminary determination that someone is driving under the influence of alcohol has become something of a mechanical operation. A driver submits to a Breathalyzer test or a blood draw and a determination is made as that individual's blood alcohol content, or BAC. The laws of each state establish a high mark over which a person's BAC is deemed to be above the permissible to lawfully operate a motor vehicle.
The same technology really does not yet exist in regard to "marijuana impairment." Moreover, the effect marijuana has varies depending on the specifics of the derivation used and a person's individual response to the drug. In other words, a definitive "marijuana impairment line" cannot be established in the same manner that exists for alcohol impairment and intoxication.
Subjective Evaluations in Advance of Arrest for Driving while Impaired by Marijuana
People are being prosecuted for driving while impaired by marijuana. These types of cases most definitely are in their infancy. Historically, if a motorist who had used marijuana was stopped by law enforcement before its legalization become more commonplace, that individual typically was charged with some sort of possession offense and little attention was paid to pot use and motoring.
Subjective evaluations are used at this time to attempt to build a prosecution for driving while impaired by marijuana. These evaluations typically include a consideration of these factors:
- Marijuana in your possession
- Driving behavior
- Driver appearance
- Driver statements
- Field performance tests
Marijuana in Your Possession
Even a small amount of marijuana found in a vehicle can be used as evidence in a case involving operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana.
Odds are that the reason a person initially will be stopped by law enforcement is because of some sort or driving error. While certainly not determinative of driving under the influence of marijuana by any means, it does open the door to a motorist being pulled over.
The appearance of a driver is also part of a subjective evaluation that a person is driving while impaired by pot. Many people believe that there are some telltale signs of marijuana use, which include bloodshot eyes and, with some regularity, an inability to remember something that just happened.
Driver statements play a fairly significant role in marijuana impaired driving cases at this juncture in time. If a drive volunteers that he or she has used marijuana before getting behind the wheel of a car, that can serve as a basis for proceeding with a prosecution in some jurisdictions. The ideal course is simply to say nothing in this regard if pulled over and asked questions about what a person did prior to beginning to drive.
Field Performance Tests
Law enforcement officials have the ability to perform field sobriety tests similar to those used when an individual is stopped and suspected to be driving under the influence of alcohol. The inability to perform effectively certain field sobriety tests might be an indication of some type of impairment, including some sort of impact arising as the result of ingesting marijuana in some manner before driving.
If a case is to be built sufficient to prosecute a person for driving while impaired by marijuana, more than one of these factors is likely to be identified. One of these issues standing alone is not likely enough to support the initiation of a prosecution for driving while impaired by pot, with two exceptions. A person volunteering or admitting pot use before driving might be enough for charges to be filed. Similarly, a failure of field sobriety tests in and of themselves might be enough to substantiate proceeding with a case against a driver.
A person who faces some sort of charge arising out of operating a motor vehicle while allegedly impaired by or under the influence of marijuana is wise to promptly consult with a qualified attorney. In this day and age, there is a growing number of criminal defense attorneys who've begun to develop at least some hands-on experience representing clients in these types of prosecutions.
If you've been injured in a car accident caused by a marijuana impaired driver, The Doan Law Firm legal team can explain your legal rights. You can schedule an appointment with a Doan Law Firm automobile accident lawyer any time of the day or night by calling us at (800) 349-0000. There is no charge for an initial consultation and case evaluation with a Doan Law Firm automobile accident lawyer.
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