Were You Accused of Driving While High?
Florida has the third-highest number of medical marijuana patients in the US, and its legislation on medical and recreational marijuana will likely expand further in the coming years. Marijuana has become widely popular across the US as states continue to legalize certain recreational and medical uses of this schedule I drug.
If the number of medical marijuana patients continues to rise in Florida, so could DUI charges.
It’s important to note that while it is legal for qualified patients to possess medical marijuana in their vehicles, they cannot use or administer it behind the wheel or else they may get a DUI charge. Senate Bill 8A prohibits marijuana use or administration in any public space, on public transportation and in a school bus, vehicle, motorboat and aircraft, to name some.
Thus, if an officer suspects you are under the influence of marijuana in Florida, they may have probable cause to arrest you for DUI. However, marijuana evidence is not as straightforward as alcohol-related evidence, which typically only requires blood and breath testing to obtain a reliable result.
So, how can the police accurately determine if you were impaired from medical marijuana?
Problems with Marijuana Evidence
Marijuana can stay in your system for up to 90 days depending on how much and how often you use it. Blood and saliva tests can detect it up to 72 hours after use, while marijuana can be detected in urine and hair for up to 90 days maximum. This means that if you smoked medical marijuana two days or even two months before your DUI arrest, your blood, urine and hair samples can produce a falsely positive result.
Further, officers receive little training, if any, on detecting marijuana. If you got pulled over and your eyes were red and motor skills were lagging, an officer may assume you are high on marijuana even if you were simply tired after a long day. To best overcome these errors, many officers participate in drug recognition expert (DRE) training. This 72-hour course covers several topics in order to:
- Determine if an individual is under the influence of a drug or drugs other than alcohol, the combined influence of alcohol and other drugs or suffering from an injury or illness that produces similar signs to alcohol/drug impairment
- Identify the broad category or categories of drugs that would induce the observable signs and symptoms of impairment
Ironically, one of the issues with this 72-hour DRE training course is that it is only 72 hours long. Although the DRE field certification stage, the third and final stage of the process, endures for about 40 to 60 hours, that is simply not enough time to learn and retain such a high volume of information on how to identify impaired drivers.
Even if an officer is a longtime DRE, every driver they encounter is different. Several factors may interfere with a driver’s impairment from marijuana, such as:
- Genetic makeup
- Underlying medical conditions
- Length of drug use
Without knowledge of these above elements, an officer cannot accurately determine if a driver is impaired by marijuana, meaning they may make a DUI arrest solely based on their subjective opinions. A sober person with underlying medical conditions can show the same signs of impairment as one who ingested 40 milligrams of marijuana before driving. Unfortunately, officers’ lack of reliable DRE training may cause them to make false assumptions.
The bottom line is DRE training is not comprehensive enough to identify marijuana-impaired drivers. As such, you cannot accept your DUI charge as truthful. You need a Miami DUI defense lawyer to combat your accusations by challenging your arresting officer’s evidence and testimony. Over the past 30 years, I, Jonathan Blecher, have successfully fought DUI charges across Miami and look forward to helping you work towards the same result.
NOTE: Though I’m not a doctor or psychologist, literature from medical and manufacturer sources advise great care when using medical marijuana. Always follow prescribed medical advice, and do not drive after taking any THC product.