Driving While Stoned: The Penalties and Gray Area in Marijuana Law

smoking a joint

As of November 2017, some 29 states had legalized marijuana for medicinal use. By 2018, eight of those states will allow the recreational use of pot, too. Add in the millions of Americans who smoke weed illegally and you have a small army of stoned individuals hanging out in public at all hours.

At your local bar or drum circle, that’s not a problem. On the other hand, when driving your kids home from school, you don’t want to run into a guy who just took a round of bong hits. Likewise, marijuana users need to know the risks they face if they get behind the wheel high. State penalties for stoned driving are mostly as harsh as they are for drunk driving. Nothing kills a buzz like 120 days without your license or $1,500 in fines.

However, there is no “pot breathalyzer” yet, and officers usually need special training necessary to otherwise judge intoxication via weed. Overall, confusion reigns, and the arrests of people who hadn’t used marijuana before driving have made the situation worse. Here’s what everyone needs to know about pot and driving, down to the gray areas in the law.

1. The risks of driving while high

While there is agreement among scientists that driving under the influence of marijuana creates a more dangerous situation, there is no consensus of just how much danger. A 2016 paper from the Society for the Study of Addiction found the increase in crash risk “of low to medium magnitude.” That assessment scaled back some of the hyperventilating following the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Even government agencies have a hard time saying how marijuana affects motorists. In February 2015, NHTSA released a study on alcohol and drug use among drivers. Once again, they found clear evidence of impairment among drunk drivers, down to the degree. Drug users proved harder to gauge. “At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment,” the report concluded.

Source: Driving While Stoned: The Penalties and Gray Area in Marijuana Law

Man held for allegedly smashing in door of city home in a rage

PITTSFIELD — A city man already facing charges has had his bail revoked after allegedly starting to “act crazy out of nowhere” last weekend, damaging a car, kicking in a locked door and smashing a cellphone.

Zachary W. Love, 23, faces multiple new charges in addition to charges on two open cases, which include credit card larceny and operating under the influence, from June and July, respectively.

Responding to a report of a breaking and entering in progress on John Street about 1:38 am. Saturday, police encountered a witness who said Love had kicked in the door of the apartment and was still inside.

The door showed signs of forced entry, police said.

Police spoke to Love, who insisted nothing was going on and said the damage from the door was from a previous break-in.

Another witness told police that a group including Love had a few drinks earlier and had come back to John Street to hang out.

That witness said when the group pulled up to the house, Love began having a “crazy attitude” and accusing a woman in the group, with whom he’d had a relationship, of having received photos from another man, police said. He began hitting the outside of the car with his fists, leaving dents.

Once inside the house, Love allegedly took a woman’s cellphone and went outside with it, removed its SIM card and smashed it. It was at that point, witnesses said Love was locked out of the house, prompting him to kick in the door to get back inside.When police attempted to take Love into custody, he allegedly resisted and thrashed around to avoid being handcuffed.

He pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Monday to three counts of vandalizing property and one count each of felony nighttime breaking and entering, larceny under $250, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest

Judge Paul Smyth then revoked Love’s bail on charges of operating under the influence, unlicensed operation and threatening to commit a crime July. He set a nominal bail of $50 on the new charges.

He is due back in court on Nov. 28 for a pretrial hearing.

A Florida woman rode her horse on a highway drunk, police say.

 She was charged with a DUI

Polk County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Donna Byrne Thursday for riding a horse while drunk. (Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Nothing’s unusual in Florida, a sheriff department spokesman said Friday. But some things — like a woman arrested this week for allegedly riding a horse while drunk down a busy highway — are still surprising.

Around 3 p.m. Thursday, a passer-by saw Donna Byrne, 53, on the horse looking confused and possibly in danger and notified officers, according to her arrest affidavit. Sheriff’s officers found Byrne on Combee Road near North Crystal Road in Lakeland, about 35 miles east of Tampa. She smelled of alcohol and had red watery eyes. When she dismounted from the horse, she staggered from side to side.

Byrne had ridden the horse for a 10 to 15-mile stretch from Polk City, said Brian Bruchey, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Byrne is being charged with driving under the influence while operating a vehicle — which in her case was a horse equipped with a saddle and bridle. She is also charged with animal neglect for putting the horse in danger of being injured or killed.

“We haven’t had a horse DUI that I’m aware of. We’ve had incidents of bicycle DUIs and motorcycle DUIs, so this was a different kind of thing.”

Donna Byrne, 53, is charged with a DUI for riding her horse drunk on a Florida highway. She also faces a count of animal neglect. (Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Whether an intoxicated person on horseback can be charged with a DUI or DWI varies from state to state.

In 1993, an appellate court in California ruled in People vs. Fong that people riding animals on the highway are subject to the same rules as the drivers of automobiles, meaning people must ride their animals at a reasonably safe speed and avoid reckless behavior.

The issue was a hot topic in Montana in 2011, when the state’s department of transportation aired an advertisement featuring a horse picking up its owner after a night of drinking at the bar. In Montana, horseback riders can’t be arrested for driving under the influence, because state law’s criteria for a vehicle in a DUI excludes devices moved by “animal power.”

Several criminal defense lawyers in Florida interviewed by The Post are skeptical of whether the DUI charge will hold up in Florida court. Thomas Grajek, a Tampa attorney who specializes in DUI cases, said he thinks Byrne can’t be charged with a DUI because Florida law states that people riding animals on roadways or shoulders are treated as pedestrians, and are not subject to the same rules as automobile drivers. Grajek said that, if anything, someone riding a horse drunk might be charged with disorderly conduct, similarly to a publicly intoxicated pedestrian.

Officers arrested Byrne after conducting a sobriety test, during which Byrne registered blood-alcohol levels of .157 and .161, twice the state’s legal limit of .08. The horse was taken to the Polk County Sheriff’s Animal Control livestock facility, officers said.

“The road she was stopped on was a very busy road,” Bruchey said. “Of course, if somebody hit the horse, then that person would be in danger. And (Byrne) was a danger to herself.”

The Polk County State Attorney’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. Bruchey, the sheriff’s department spokesman, said the officer who arrested Byrne thought he had sufficient probable cause to consider the horse a vehicle.

“I can tell you it’s going to be interesting if (the DUI charge) goes through,” Bruchey said. “The way sheriffs look at it, the woman put a saddle and bridle on this horse and was riding it to get from point A to point B. For all intents and purposes, we look at that as a vehicle.”

Byrne’s criminal history includes five felony and ten misdemeanor charges, consisting of cruelty to animals, drug possession, probation violation and criminal traffic, officers said. She could not be reached for comment.

Police to begin roadside drug testing pilot program Nov. 8

(WXYZ) – In an effort to combat the dangers of drugged driving, five Michigan counties will participate in a one-year oral fluid roadside drug testing pilot program by Michigan State Police.

The counties include Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

The Preliminary Oral Fluid Analysis pilot program will establish policies for the administration of roadside drug testing to determine whether an individual is operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance.

Over the last several years, Michigan has seen a steady increase in fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by drugs. In 2016, there were 236 drug-involved traffic fatalities.

“Motorists under the influence of drugs pose a risk to themselves and others on the road,” said MSP Director Col. Kriste Etue. “With drugged driving on the rise, law enforcement officers need an effective tool to assist in making these determinations during a traffic stop.”

The counties were chosen based on criteria including number of impaired driving crashed, impaired drivers arrested and trained Drug Recognition Experts in the county.

Under the pilot program, a DRE may require a person to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis to detect the presence of a controlled substance in the person’s body if they suspect the driver is impaired by drugs.

Refusal to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis upon lawful demand of a police officer is a civil infraction.

http://www.wxyz.com/news/michigan-state-police-to-begin-roadside-drug-testing-pilot-program-nov-8

Rapper Fetty Wap charged with drag racing, DWI on Gowanus Expressway

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) — Rapper Fetty Wap was arrested for racing another vehicle on the Gowanus Expressway early Friday, police say.The rapper, whose real name is Willie Maxwell, was spotted by police driving a black 2012 Mercedes CLS AMG westbound on the highway at a high rate of speed just after 1 a.m.He was clearly racing another vehicle near Hamilton Avenue, according to investigators.When Fetty was pulled over, police say he handed the officer a suspended New Jersey driver’s license.The officer noticed signs of intoxication and gave the rapper a field sobriety test, where he blew a .09.He failed another sobriety test at the precinct.He was charged with reckless endangerment, illegal speed contest, operating a motor vehicle with .08, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, motor vehicle license violation. unsafe lane change, following too close, illegal signal, driving while alcohol impaired, and four counts of a speed violation.He was charged and will be arraigned in Downtown Brooklyn later Friday

Source: Rapper Fetty Wap charged with drag racing, DWI on Gowanus Expressway | abc7ny.com