BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence of marijuana is challenging the state standard at which a person is considered to be under the influence.
Public defender Gregory Paskell says the THC blood level set by the state is arbitrary, and he’s asking that the charge against Kent Roderick Jensen be dismissed.
Jensen, 20, is charged in the March 2016 death of motorcyclist Jashua Fry, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/2uihlM3 ) reports. Court records say Jensen pulled out onto a road without seeing the motorcycle, causing the fatal crash.
Jensen’s blood contained 19 nanograms per milliliter of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, court records said. State law says a person is under the influence with a blood level of 5 ng/mL of THC.
Paskell cited studies that have concluded it’s difficult to standardize the amount of THC that creates impairment because it varies from person to person.
“There is no science to back up the 5 ng/mL level as a level that indicates impairment in a sizable enough portion of users to make it a standard for everyone,” Paskell wrote.
Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Victoria Callender said the Legislature, which makes policy decisions, set the legal limit based on research and that the case should move forward.
Montana is one of 18 states with marijuana-specific impaired driving laws, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. A dozen states have zero tolerance for marijuana or its metabolites.
Colorado, Montana and Washington’s driving limits of 5 ng/mL are the highest among the six states that list legal limits. Colorado allows defendants to argue they were not impaired at that level, but Montana and Washington laws are similar to blood-alcohol limits, which drivers cannot challenge.
District Judge Gregory Todd heard arguments on June 2 and then received written briefs. He has not ruled in the case. Jensen’s trial is scheduled for late August.
OUI checkpoints pop up on heavily traveled roads throughout MA every weekend. You have rights if you are stopped at one of these checkpoints, but it’s important to keep the following in mind – the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that OUI checkpoints are legal. So, while you do have rights, you must stop at a checkpoint if directed to do so. Read on for more information about what to do, and what not to do, if you are stopped.
OUI Checkpoint Dos
- If you are directed to stop, do so as soon as it is safe to pull over. The requested stops are usually done at random, so don’t panic if you are directed to pull over.
- Stay calm, and politely follow the officer’s instructions.
- Provide law enforcement with requested information, such as your driver’s license and vehicle registration. Failing to do so may cause suspicion and result in further complications, even your arrest.
OUI Checkpoint Don’ts
- Avoid violating traffic laws when you are driving through a checkpoint. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to make mistakes when you are panicking. Don’t make illegal U-turns, use excessive speed, or ignore an officer’s signals to pull over. These actions could give police reason to suspect you of OUI.
- Don’t unnecessarily incriminate yourself. If police ask if you’ve had anything to drink, politely decline to answer the question. Although you may think it will help your case to say you’ve only had one or two beers, this statement can be used against you. In fact, other than providing police with identifying information, such as your license and registration, you should – politely – decline to answer any questions that police ask you.
- Decline field sobriety tests. You are absolutely able to refuse field sobriety tests; politely decline and inform police that you know it is your right to refuse.
- Do not volunteer to take a breath test. If you haven’ been arrested, you are not required to submit to a breath test. Once you have been arrested, there are penalties for refusing. However, in some cases these penalties are less severe than the potential penalties of an OUI conviction. It is impossible to give a blanket statement as to whether you should or should not refuse a breath test if arrested for OUI. This can only be determined on a case by case basis, incorporating factors such as prior criminal history and OUI convictions. A Boston defense attorney can help you understand how refusing a breath test might impact you, based on your personal circumstances.
Massachusetts is tough on OUI. Even first-time offenders may see jail time, have their license suspended, and be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed. These devices require a driver to provide an alcohol-free breath sample before his or her engine will start, and periodically throughout the drive. Second and subsequent offenders will have even stiffer penalties. If you made the mistake of driving while intoxicated, don’t make another one by hiring the wrong attorney. A skilled MA OUI attorney can make all the difference in the world.
A dog walks into a bar and hops up on a stool. He looks the bartender in the eye and says, “Hey, guess what? I can talk. Have you ever seen a talking dog before? How about a drink?”The bartender thinks for a moment and says, “Sure, the toilet’s right around the corner.”
TRENTON — No more short stints in jail for drunk drivers who kill people in New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie on Friday signed a bill that requires a prison sentence of at least three years for drunk drivers convicted of homicide.
Known as Ralph and David’s Law, the measure creates a new crime – third-degree strict liability homicide – for causing a death by driving a car or operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The legislation was in response to the outcry over light sentences that some drunken drivers have received because their crimes didn’t rise to the level of the state’s first- or second-degree offenses addressing driving under the influence. Until this new law, the only other offense jurors, judges and prosecutors could consider was drunken driving, which carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail.
Third-degree crimes generally do not require jail or prison time for a first-time offender but Ralph and David’s Law calls for mandatory incarceration of between three and five years.
The law was named for David Heim and Ralph Politi Jr., whose cases highlighted the loopholes in New Jersey’s drunken driving laws.
David, 13, of Hampton, was killed when he was hit by a drunken driver as he was crossing Route 206 with his mother and siblings in 2014. The motorist, not charged with vehicular homicide, was convicted of drunken driving and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Politi, an East Hanover business owner and community activist, was killed in 2012 by a drunk driver who swerved out of her lane and hit him as he stood by his parked pickup truck. The driver was charged with aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide, but was found not guilty in March of 2016.
The new law allows prosecutors to charge offenders with strict liability vehicular homicide or reckless vehicular homicide, depending on the circumstances. Reckless vehicular homicide would involve negligence on the part of the driver or boat operator.
Texting or holding a phone to your ear while driving is already illegal in Washington state. But starting Sunday, Washington state troopers and local police will begin enforcing a toughened law against distracted driving.
This spring, the legislature expanded the distracted driving lawto forbid handling a phone behind the wheel for any reason, even when stopped in traffic or at a red light.
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said you can also get a ticket for eating, sipping coffee, starting a video or grooming if a trooper sees you driving badly as a consequence.
The citation for being “dangerously distracted” by something other than an electronic device could only be enforced as a secondary offense, meaning another infraction such as an improper lane change would need to be observed to pull you over.
“It’s a hands-free situation,” Batiste said. “Before you get in your vehicle, if you’re going to use GPS, get that started before you turn the key. If you’re going to listen to music, get that all programmed and started before you head off down the roadways.”
Using voice commands to make a phone call or get directions while the phone is in a cradle or connected to your car via Bluetooth is still allowed. Hands-free devices must not take more than “minimal” finger touches to activate or deactivate.
Using a CB radio is OK. Picking up the phone to call 911 in an emergency is a permissible exception.
Batiste said troopers are likely to give more lectures than tickets during the initial three to six months under the toughened law.
“Our first effort is to educate folks as we typically do with new laws,” Batiste told reporters in Olympia Monday. “We go on a heavy emphasis of educating folks. So we’ll give out a lot of warnings.”
Another change from current law highlighted at a photo op and media event in Olympia Monday was that cell phone violations will be reportable to auto insurance companies from now on. Previously, cell phone tickets were exempted from disclosure to your insurance company.
A first ticket for driving under the influence of electronics—or E-DUI—will cost you at least $136. A second violation within five years will cost at least $236.
The stiffer consequences were welcomed by Tina Meyer of Arlington, who tearfully recounted how her 23-year-old son Cody was run down by a distracted driver in 2015 while he was working as a flagger in a construction zone near Issaquah. Cody eventually died from his injuries.
“By making this change in the law, it is going to save a lot of lives,” Meyer said.
On January 15th of last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Board (NHTSA) issued the following news release:
Feds Want to Lower the Legal Limit to One Drink
Washington, DC. Jan. 15 – The National Transportation Safety Board wants to decrease the legal driving limit to one drink, lowering the legal limit on blood-alcohol content to 0.05 “or even lower.”…
The agency issued the recommendation while admitting that “the amount consumed and crash risk is not well understood.”
“We need more and better data to understand the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of countermeasures,” they said….
A 0.05 BAC level would reduce the number of drinks an average-weight man of 180 pounds could have to two, according to Blood Alcohol Calculator. Women could only have one drink before they exceeded the limit. A 100-pound woman reaches .05 BAC with just one drink, but two drinks would put any woman under 220 pounds at or above the government’s desired limit.
Under the current level of 0.08, an average weight man can have four drinks until reaching the limit.
On the next day, I posted the following on this blog:
To give all of this some context, let me offer a history of this focus on the lowering of blood-alcohol limits rather than on the more important issue of alcohol-caused impairment….
The original drunk driving laws were simple and fair: Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Then, many years ago, law enforcement came up with crude devices to measure alcohol on the breath of drunk driving suspects. But what did, say, a .13% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) mean? They turned to the American Medical Association which, in 1938, created a “Committee to Study Problems of Motor Vehicle Accidents”. At the same time, the National Safety Council set up a “Committee on Tests for Intoxication”.
After some study, these two groups came up with their findings: a driver with .15% BAC or higher could be presumed to be “under the influence”; those under .15% could not. That’s right: .15%. And that recommendation lasted for 22 years. But prosecutors and certain groups of “concerned mothers” were not happy with the low DUI arrest and conviction rates.
Under increasing political pressure, the committees “revisited” the question in 1960 and agreed to lower the presumed level of intoxication to .10%. Had the human body changed in 22 years? Had the AMA been negligent in their earlier studies? Or were politics and law once again trumping scientific truth?
Well, the arrest and conviction rates shot up, but there were still too many people escaping the DUI net. Then MADD was formed. Soon after, legislation began appearing in many states that created a second crime, in addition to driving under the influence: driving with a BAC of .10% or higher.
This new crime did not require the driver to be affected by alcohol: even if sober, he would be guilty if his blood-alcohol was .10%. In effect, it completely ignored the questions of intoxication, driving impairment and individual tolerance to alcohol. And, despite questions of double jeopardy, the individual could be charged and even convicted of both the traditional DUI and the new .10% crimes! This gave police and prosecutors a powerful new weapon, and drunk driving arrests/convictions jumped once again.
This was not good enough. Under increasing pressure from an ever more powerful MADD, in 1990 four states lowered the blood-alcohol level in DUI cases to .08%; others soon followed and, ten years later, federal politicians (with one eye on MADD) passed an appropriations bill in effect coercing all states into adopting the new .08% BAC standard.
Since I wrote this, three months ago Utah enacted a new law lowering the blood-alcohol level drunk driving to .05%. See Jon Ibanez’ DUIblog post Utah Lawmakers Vote to Lower State’s BAC Limit to 0.05%.
Interestingly, on June 17th — shortly after the new .05% law was enacted — the Salt Lake City Tribune published the following comments from the original founder of MADD, Candy Lightner:
Founder of MADD Says Utah’s New Drunk Driving Law is an Unhealthy Distraction
Salt Lake City, Ut. June 17 – While drunk driving remains a serious concern, other threats are mounting on our roadways. According to a recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 43 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for some sort of drug, legal or illegal. And with the rise of smartphones and other gadgets, people are distracted more than ever while driving.
As the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) I can attest that there is a new kind of madness on the roads. And new approaches are needed to save lives.
Unfortunately, the necessary debate on how to solve these new challenges isn’t happening in earnest. The traffic safety community is distracted by an issue that will do little to save lives: lowering the drunk driving arrest threshold from .08 to .05.
Back in the early years at MADD we focused on getting serious drunk drivers off the road…In the more than 35 years since MADD’s founding, we have fought drunk driving ferociously and saved countless lives in the process.
But today, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction — with government agencies pushing states to arrest people for having little to drink before driving instead of pursuing strategies to tackle serious distraction and impairment. Anyone who works in traffic safety knows that most highway deaths are not caused by drivers with low blood alcohol content levels, but are the result of drivers with substance abuse disorders. Focusing finite resources on casual drinkers instead of drug and alcohol abusers is a miscalculation with deadly consequences…
Maybe it’s time for the decades-old “War on Drunk Driving” to redirect its fixation away from alcohol and towards the real problem today: drugs and distracted driving….
Leaving the scene of the accident. I refused roadside or breath/blood tests. I understand it’s mandatory jail but what can I expect to pay if I hire a lawyer? Just in hopes of shorter jail/work release.
You should possibly hope for more. The attorney fees we charge are minimal if we settle your case without trial. They depend on how far the court is away from our office. We have traveled to Rifle, Burlington, Greeley-Ft. Collins, Trinidad and courts in between. Since you refused all testing you may want to go to trial if you have chances at an acquittal.
A huge guy walks into a bar, approaches a little guy and karate chops him in the back. When the little guy gets up, the huge guy says, “That was a karate chop from Korea.”A little later, the huge guy walks back over to the little guy and karate chops him in the back. The huge guy says, “That was a karate chop from China.”The little guy leaves the bar, comes back and hits the huge guy on the back. The huge guy lies unconscious on the floor. The little guy tells the bartender, “Tell him that was a crowbar from Sears.”