Youngsville woman dies in motorcycle crash

ST. MARTIN PARISH, LA (WAFB) -A 45-year-old St. Martin Parish woman is dead after a motorcycle crash, authorities say.Shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday, troopers from Louisiana State Police Troop I began investigating a single vehicle fatal crash on US-90 westbound near the St. Martin / Iberia parish line.State police say the crash claimed the life of Ruiella Carriere,45, of Youngsville.The initial investigation by State Police showed the crash happened as 46-year-old Larry Bourque, also of Youngsville, was operating a 2004 Harley Davidson motorcycle westbound on US-90.Carriere was a passenger on the motorcycle, state police say.For unknown reasons, Bourque failed to negotiate a right curve and the motorcycle ran off the left side of the roadway.The motorcycle traveled into the median and struck a sign causing the driver and Carriere to be ejected off of the motorcycle.Initially, state police say Bourque and Carriere sustained moderate injuries and were transported to Lafayette General Medical Center for treatment.At about 11 p.m., state police were notified by medical personnel that Carriere died to her injuries.State police say it is unknown if impairment is a factor in the crash. A toxicology sample was taken from Bourque and submitted to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis, standard in crash fatalities.Bourque and Carriere were both wearing helmets, but the helmets were removed before state police arrived. State police investigators are trying to determine if the helmets were DOT approved.This crash remains under investigation.State police issued on statement on motorcycle safety, saying:Troopers encourage all riders to take an approved motorcycle safety course. These courses teach safe riding practices and help you apply safe riding strategies that can help reduce your chance of injury should a crash occur. Making good choices while riding a motorcycle, such as never driving while impaired and obeying all traffic laws, can often mean the difference between life and death.

Source: Youngsville woman dies in motorcycle crash – WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Mass. high court says sobriety tests aren’t evidence for pot use

Members of the Mass. State Police performed a sobriety test on a driver in Chicopee in 2011.

The state’s highest court on Tuesday limited which evidence can be used to prosecute drivers suspected of operating under the influence of marijuana, handing a victory to civil rights advocates in a closely watched case.

Under a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts police officers can no longer cite their subjective on-scene observations or sobriety tests to conclude in court testimony that a driver was under the influence of marijuana.

The judges also noted the effects of marijuana on its users are more complex than of alcohol and less obviously correlated to the amount consumed, making it difficult for untrained observers to know whether someone is high.

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“Because the effects of marijuana may vary greatly from one individual to another, and those effects are as yet not commonly known,” the court said, “neither a police officer nor a lay witness who has not been qualified as an expert may offer an opinion as to whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana.”

Police officers can still arrest drivers they suspect are high and describe in court how the drivers behaved during the roadside tests. For example, an officer could tell a jury a driver was unable to walk in a straight line. But under the ruling, the officer could not describe the task as a “test” or say the driver “failed” it.

Similarly, an officer could tell a jury that a driver smelled strongly of marijuana and seemed confused but could not use such observations to conclude the driver was high

However, the court said jurors “are still permitted to utilize their common sense” in considering whether the sobriety assessments and other evidence indicate impairment.

The defendant in the case is Thomas Gerhardt, who was stopped in Millbury in February 2013 by a State Police trooper for allegedly driving with his lights off, according to a statement of facts agreed to by both sides in the case.

The trooper testified that he saw smoke inside the vehicle and smelled marijuana and that Gerhardt acknowledged smoking about a gram of marijuana. Gerhardt was unable to properly do the “walk-and-turn” test, the trooper said, and struggled to stand on one foot.

The case has not yet gone to trial, amid legal wrangling over which evidence can be admitted.

Rebecca Jacobstein, Gerhardt’s attorney, called the ruling a victory over “junk science.”

“The big take-away here is that for the government to introduce something as science, it actually has to be science,” Jacobstein said.

The decision, she argued, does not make it harder for law enforcement to deter stoned driving.

“I look at this more as a protection of people’s right to have only meaningful and relevant evidence used against them,” she said.

A spokesman for Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., whose office is prosecuting Gerhardt, said the decision “provides much-needed clarity regarding police testimony,” and prosecutors will use the court’s guidance in bringing the case to trial.

Walpole police Chief John Carmichael Jr., a spokesman for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, doesn’t expect the ruling to significantly change how officers conduct traffic stops.

“At the end of the day, officers are still going to rely on all their observations and the total circumstances of the stop, and base their arrests on probable cause,” Carmichael said. “We don’t think about conviction rates all the time; we think about public safety.”

Beyond standard sobriety tests, Carmichael said, officers carefully watch how a driver acts in general. He added he was relieved those observations will be still heard in court.

“We’re assessing demeanor, attitude, attention span, behavior — everything,” he said.

Carmichael called on the state Legislature to follow Colorado and Washington, two other states where recreational marijuana is legal, in establishing a blood concentration limit for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

“Our law doesn’t have the teeth it needs,” he said.

Both states use a threshold of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood; in Washington any driver at or above that level is automatically considered impaired, while in Colorado those drivers can dispute their condition in court. However, some experts have questioned the validity of any law that specifies a particular blood concentration for impairment.

Jay Winsten, director of Harvard University’s Center for Health Communication and a pioneer of OUI awareness campaigns, praised the court for taking a “middle ground” approach.

“I think it was a wise, smart, and careful decision,” Winsten said. “It keeps field sobriety tests in the picture without allowing police officers to claim they constitute unequivocal evidence of marijuana intoxication, which would be suggesting something that goes beyond what’s currently known.”

“In the end,” he added, “it’s up to the common sense of jurors.”

Source: Mass. high court says sobriety tests aren’t evidence for pot use – The Boston Globe

PD: Impaired driver takes out road sign, goes airborne over railroad tracks – WISC

MADISON, Wis. – A Verona man faces charges after he took out a road sign and went airborne over some railroad tracks while driving down South Park Street, police said.A witness told police it appeared a driver was asleep at the wheel as the car he was driving around 5:30 p.m. in the 1800 block of South Park Street drifted across southbound lanes, over the median and into the northbound lanes.The car then took out a road sign, drove over the sidewalk and down an embankment, according to a release. The car went airborne over some railroad tracks before slamming into a railroad control box, causing thousands of dollars in damage.The witness unbuckled the driver, 24-year-old Travis J. Busse, and paramedics delivered Naloxone, police said. Busse was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.Busse faces tentative charges of third-offense operating while intoxicated, driving the wrong way on a divided highway and operating while revoked.

Source: PD: Impaired driver takes out road sign, goes airborne over railroad tracks – WISC

Driver Crashes Into Ole Miss Confederate Statue

OXFORD, M.S. (localmemphis.com) –  A Confederate soldier statue in Mississippi was damaged Saturday night after investigators said driver slammed a pick up truck into the base of a monument on the campus of Ole Miss.In a tweet, the Ole Miss Police Department said the driver was driving under the influence. Local 24 is waiting on details surrounding the crash that left two people. The plaque on the base of the statue had to be removed due to damage. The plaque was added in 2016 to provide historical context to the monument, which honors local soldiers who fought in the Confederate army. The destruction on Rebel Drive attracted many onlookers, including James Thomas.”My immediate thought was, ‘I’ve got to go see it,” said Thomas.Thomas inspected the statue Sunday.”To be honest with you,” he said, “I was hoping that they had knocked it over but that didn’t happen.”Instead, Thomas found a barrier around the statute. It shifted on impact.Photos given to Local 24 by a viewer show the aftermath of Saturday night’s crash. The driver’s side of the truck was badly damaged.Campus police tweeted out information on the crash once word of the crash spread. It happened around 8:11 p.m.”Driver investigated for driving while intoxicated,” the department tweeted. “Driver & passenger got medical attention. No indication it was a deliberate act. Being investigated as a crash. Will consult with prosecutor/DA/FBI to determine if additional charges are to be filed.””I don’t know if the intent was to hit into the statue,” said Thomas. “I don’t know if there was intent behind it, if there was the intent to aim at the plaque, I don’t know. I’m going to consider all options.”Thomas is an assistant professor of sociology at Ole Miss and a faculty advisor for the university’s NAACP chapter. He told Local 24 he see’s the statue one way.”I see it as a testament to white supremacy,” he said.Thomas has pushed for the statues removal. Given the damage to the statue by Saturday’s crash he’s hoping the university will see this as a way to move forward.”Do they want to invest in money into repairing this monument or do they want to use that money to move it where, I think it should belong, which is off-campus?” he asked. Local 24 reached out to the university’s communication’s team for comment. We did not hear back from Ole Miss by deadline.Local 24 also has a call out to the district attorney’s office inquiring about charges. We will keep you updated as new information becomes available.

Source: Driver Crashes Into Ole Miss Confederate State – Story

Pot DUIs Are Still Hard To Measure, But Cops Train While Scientists Work On Solutions

In Colorado, it’s legal to smell like marijuana while driving and to have paraphernalia in the car. It’s even legal to have marijuana in the car as long as the weed’s in a sealed container away from the driver.

But it’s illegal to drive impaired from cannabis, just like it’s illegal to drive drunk. And the number of deaths due to car crashes involving marijuana is rising, says Sam Cole, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“It’s still small compared to all the other reasons we’re seeing for fatalities out there,” he says. In 2016, 51 people died in crashes that involved drivers whose blood tested contained a certain level of active THC. That’s 8 percent of all crash fatalities in 2016. “The data indicates it’s a growing problem.” And CDOT has allocated almost a million dollars, all from marijuana tax revenue, to educate the public about the danger of driving while high.

And yet, confirming that someone has actually been driving while impaired by marijuana is remarkably tricky. But that doesn’t stop Colorado lawyer Chris Halsor from teaching law enforcement officers to recognize the signs of marijuana impairment.

“It’s a brave new world,” he says to a room full of Colorado State Patrol officers. There are now more dispensaries in the state than there are Starbucks coffee shops, he tells the students as they learn how to correctly perform roadside sobriety tests.

To complicate matters, as CDOT’s Sam Cole notes, “the only roadside device that’s allowed to be used, by statute, is an alcohol device.” It’s largely up to officers to determine on the side of the road if a person is impaired from pot.

As part of the training, Halsor assigned the officers to go shopping at local dispensaries, so they could get a sense of what pot products are out there. Then, a group of volunteers arrived, introduced themselves to the officers, and promptly proceeded to an RV parked in the hotel parking lot where, as payment for their participation, they could legally consume as much pot as they wanted from a plastic tub of edibles, vape pens, joints and other pot products.

When the volunteers returned to the hotel, the officers tested them on a number of measures meant to distinguish the impaired from the sober.

How many quarters are in $1.75? A person who’s impaired might take a while to figure it out.

Walk nine paces, touching toe to heel, along a line, then return. Someone who’s impaired might forget the instructions or have trouble balancing.

Follow a pen with your eyes as an officer moves it around your face.  An impaired person’s eyes often show something called “horizontal gaze nystagmus,” in which the eyes jerk when they move to the side. When the pen moves toward the nose, an impaired person’s eyes often show “lack of convergence” — their eyes can’t cross in sync, drifting or shifting around rather than converging on the tip of the nose.

The usefulness of many of these tests are backed up by scientific evidence, but the methods don’t always apply to everyone equally. And they are all subject to — even dependent upon — an officer’s observations, biases, and interpretation.

Indeed, one of the volunteer’s results were clear-cut. “She’d be going to jail,” said Rich Armstrong, an officer with Colorado State Patrol, and the others all agreed. But the other three were not.

Officers disagreed about the second woman, who did well on some parts of the tests and poorly on others. “It was a tough one,” said Trooper Tom Davis, also with CSP.

“Yeah, this is one of those subjective areas,” said Rich Armstrong.

The officers determined that, in real life, they would not have arrested the two male volunteers for impairment, even though the male volunteers had consumed a comparable amount of cannabis to the female volunteers.

Enter the scientists. At the Boulder branch of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, nestled among buildings that house atomic clocks and giant lasers, there is a group of researchers dedicated to forensic science. And right now, a few them are all about pot. Measuring it precisely, of course.

Chemical engineer Tara Lovestead is working hard to lay the groundwork for a pot breathalyzer. As federal employees, she and her colleagues can’t actually develop commercial breath tests, but they’re doing the nitty gritty basic research like measuring the fundamental physical properties of THC. The findings could help companies and researchers create reliable devices that correlate chemicals in a person’s breath to their level of impairment.

From Lovestead’s point of view, the current system for determining marijuana impairment relies too much on an officer’s interpretation. “It’s too subjective. I’m not comfortable with that. The public, I don’t think, is comfortable with that,” she says.

At least two companies are working on devices, including Cannabix Technologies and Hound Labs, but they’re still in the testing phase. And though officers in California are already using a marijuana detection device called the Drager DrugTest 5000, it does not detect a person’s level of impairment — only the presence of THC in their saliva.

Often, when officers deem an erratic or dangerous driver to be impaired from marijuana, they bring the driver in for a blood test. According to state law, if a milliliter of the person’s blood contains more than 5 nanograms of active THC, the person can be “presumed” to be impaired. But researchers have shown that the 5-nanogram limit can be misleading, possibly incriminating someone who last smoked days before driving, and possibly missing someone who just consumed cannabis.

“It’s a very challenging problem and a lot of work needs to be done,” says Lovestead, whose research group previously worked on technology that could sample tiny amounts of chemicals in the air to detect things like explosives or buried bodies.

While scientists and companies chip away at developing marijuana breath tests, Sam Cole at CDOT is exploring another big question: what’s behind Colorado’s rise in crash fatalities involving marijuana.

“The 64 million dollar question is: Is it because of legalization?” he says. Data on crash fatalities and marijuana is spotty before 2013. So the answer, Cole says, is unclear.

 

Source: Pot DUIs Are Still Hard To Measure, But Cops Train While Scientists Work On Solutions | CPR