DUI News DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

Law leaves medical cannabis patients at risk for DUI prosecution, Senate hearing reveals

FILE - Recreational marijuana, dispensary, medical cannabis

Three years ago, medical cannabis patient Jesse Roedts told state troopers at a sobriety checkpoint that some of the drug was in his car.

That admission, he said, prompted a search of his vehicle, a field sobriety test – which he passed – and a blood draw to confirm his impairment. The latter revealed carboxy THC in his system, triggering a DUI charge and costing him thousands in court and attorneys fees to fight.

During a preliminary hearing, Roedts said the arresting officer admitted targeting him for the DUI charge upon learning of his medical status. Pennsylvania’s zero tolerance impaired driving law makes no distinction between medical and recreational cannabis use, leaving up to 368,000 registered patients at risk of prosecution for the mere presence of THC in their blood.

“The state legalized medical cannabis then turned hundreds of thousands of patients into potential criminals,” Roedts told the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday in support of a legislative fix to the loophole. “Reforming this law will allow the proper protections that patients deserve. … I know I am one of many patients who have suffered due to the way the current law is written.”

That’s why Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, sponsored Senate Bill 167 amending Title 75, the Vehicle Code, to remove medical cannabis from the law’s definition of controlled substance and insert language that says “if the individual is a medical marijuana patient in compliance with the provisions of the Medical Marijuana Act, proof of actual impairment shall be required.”

This is similar to the way drivers found in possession of prescribed drugs are treated, Bartolotta said in a December cosponsorship memo. The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is among the supporters of the measure.

“DUI reform is the most pressing issue facing our medical cannabis patients,” said Patrick Nightingale, a criminal defense attorney based in Pittsburgh. “The intent [of the medical cannabis program] could not have been to render hundreds of thousands of patients unable to operate a vehicle.”

Nightingale told the committee that prosecution of cannabis DUIs is inconsistent across the state. Some district attorneys withdraw charges against registered patients, while others pursue convictions based on the drug’s Schedule 1 classification.

“There is no consistency unfortunately, and that makes life interesting not only for defense attorneys, but our clients,” he said Tuesday.

In Roedts’s case, the state dropped the charges after the arresting officer testified under oath that he lied about seeing signs of impairment. The court also viewed a recording of Roedts’s field sobriety test, which confirmed he passed with no signs of intoxication.

Pennsylvania State Police Major Robert Krol said officers don’t pursue DUI charges unless a driver shows signs of impairment. The agency said it supports the bill.

“Normally, we’re not going to get to the point that we are obtaining blood unless we’ve got indicators [of impairment],” he said. “We don’t go on fishing expeditions, per se, to identify whether people have something in their system or not unless we have other evidence.”

Lauren Vrabel, a licensed pharmacist, told the committee that existing drug screenings present “misleading representations of intoxication” because the tests detect the presence of inactive THC metabolites that “will not interact with receptors to produce a high.”

“What this actually represents is simply consumption,” she said. “It is not an indicator of the time frame of consumption. Therefore, measuring [carboxy THC] to prove intoxication at the time of operating a motor vehicle is arbitrary.”

Roedts said, despite the withdrawn charges, the event triggered a ripple effect of negative consequences throughout his life and abused his “rights and privacy.” Local newspapers published his DUI charge, which jeopardized his jobs as both a music teacher and fire inspector.

“I felt embarrassed that I had to reveal personal medical information just to clear my name so I would not be terminated from both my jobs,” he told the committee. “I had to make them aware that I was a legal patient and was not impaired.”

Roughly 368,000 active registered patients in Pennsylvania use medical cannabis to treat 23 conditions, from cancer to autism to chronic pain to anxiety to opioid use disorder. Bartolotta said her bill “will provide critical protections for medicinal cannabis patients by ensuring responsible use of their legal medicine does not give rise to a criminal conviction.”

DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

Alleged Pot Dealer Charged for Driving While High on Marijuana

Millsboro, DE – Delaware State Police arrested 18-year-old Toby Schlick of Millsboro on felony drug and traffic charges following a traffic stop.

  • Approximately 510.73 grams of marijuana
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Approximately $769.00 in suspected drug proceeds

Schlick was charged with the following crimes:

  • Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance (Felony)
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
  • Failure to Signal
  • Failure to Carry License

Schlick was arraigned in the Justice of the Peace Court #2 and released on his own recognizance.

DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

Man charged in Valentine’s Day crash that killed 71-year-old grandmother

Police say Anthony R. Negron had THC in his system and was going twice the posted speed limit when he ran into another vehicle on Burlingame Avenue SW.

WYOMING, Mich. — A Wyoming man faces two felony charges for a deadly crash that occurred when he was driving 93 mph while intoxicated, killing a 71-year-old grandmother from Jenison, police say.

Anthony R. Negron had THC in his system when he slammed into another motorist on Burlingame Avenue SW, court records show. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

“We know he was going at least 93 miles per hour just a few seconds before impact,’’ Wyoming Police Capt. James Maguffee said. “Likely drag-racing another car, or at least conducting some horse-play with another car nearby.’’

The posted speed limit where the crash occurred is 45 mph.

Negron, 29, has a history of driving violations, including driving without insurance, which earned him jail time.

Felony charges for the Feb. 14 crash at Burlingame Avenue and Porter Street SW have him facing up to 15 years in prison.

He was speeding south on Burlingame when he collided with a vehicle driven by Norrine Young, court records show.  She was turning onto Porter when her vehicle was struck. She died two days later. Young’s obituary describes the mother and grandmother as a caring and independent person who was loved by all who knew her.

Negron was charged with reckless driving causing death and operating while intoxicated causing death. Both are 15-year felonies. He waived a hearing earlier this week in Wyoming District Court, sending his case to Kent County Circuit Court.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker says his office has seen an increase in intoxicated driving cases. Alcohol tops the list, but prescription drugs and marijuana certainly play a role.

His office in 2019 prosecuted 1,016 cases of operating under the influence of liquor and operating while intoxicated. That’s up more than 15 percent from 2017.

Becker said cases involving marijuana are expected to increase as recreational marijuana businesses open in the area. Michigan voters in 2018 legalized recreational use of marijuana.

“This was a concern that we always had – that we were going to start seeing more of this. And I think we haven’t seen the full impact of it in Kent County,’’ Becker said.

Kent County’s first recreational marijuana business, called Meds Café in Lowell, opened in mid-March. 

Becker says as recreational marijuana becomes more prevalent, he anticipates more arrests of people driving under the influence of THC.

“When you look at other states, Washington, Colorado, states that have legalized before us, they’ve had an increase in accidents involving controlled substances – especially marijuana,’’ Becker said. “Usually marijuana and alcohol, but definitely just marijuana.’’


DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

CDOT creating ads to deter driving under cannabis influence after 2-year study

(Colorado Department of Transportation/For Greeley Tribune)

State transportation officials are creating new ads with the hopes of discouraging cannabis users from driving while under the influence of the drug.

The ads are being created using insights from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s two-year “Cannabis Conversation” study into how cannabis users across the state feel about driving under the influence. The study wrapped up late 2019, and officials are optimistic about the impact it will have.

“(Colorado State Patrol’s) Greeley Office shares CDOT’s goal of helping people make safe choices,” Captain Ian Whittington of CSP’s Greeley Office wrote in a statement. “Drivers who are impaired by drugs — even if the impairment is slight — pose an unreasonable threat to Northern Colorado, where so many members of the community depend on public highways for their livelihood and for their way of life.”

A Colorado State trooper talks on the phone at the scene of a crash after Greeley Police, Weld County Sheriffs, and several other law enforcement agencies were led on a high speed chase down U.S 85.
In this 2015 Tribune file photo, a Colorado State trooper talks on the phone at the scene of a crash after Greeley Police, Weld County Sheriffs, and several other law enforcement agencies were led on a high speed chase down U.S 85.

In 2018, 13.5% of drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for cannabis, according to a CDOT news release. Prior surveys released by CDOT suggest driving under the influence is a common phenomenon among the state’s cannabis users. In one survey, more than half of cannabis users reported under the influence in the past 30 days. In another, about two-thirds of Weld County cannabis users reported driving under the influence at least once in the past year.

The first main takeaway from the study was that those who consumed cannabis more often considered driving under the influence to be less dangerous. The more they consumed cannabis, according to state officials, the more respondents talked about individual differences in consumption or tolerance as factors in someone’s ability to drive under the influence.

Many daily users considered driving under the influence of cannabis safe, and some told state officials they drove better after using the drug because they were calmer. Those who drive under the influence often rely on a “gut check,” taking their personal tolerance and past driving experiences, to determine their ability to drive safely. Some were very cautious and took extra precautions when driving after cannabis use, state officials noted.

Whittington said people often partake in risky behavior without realizing how risky it was.

“All too frequently it doesn’t work out OK for people who wake up in the morning (not) expecting that they or a loved one would be involved in a horrible traffic crash,” he said. “But unfortunately, that’s how it typically unfolds.”

Transportation officials found that many cannabis users are highly skeptical of the laws, policies and enforcement for driving impaired. Some who drive after using cannabis dismissed existing research and data because it didn’t ring true with their personal experiences. Most users were sensitive to any messages they perceived as overstating the dangers of driving high, stereotyping cannabis users or unrealistic. Many want nuanced, credible information, according to the study.

Users expressed in interest in research on detection methods, ways to measure their own impairment, dosage-based guidelines for legal limits and specific guidelines on how long to wait after consuming before driving. Some developers have created smartphone apps designed to test users’ impairment, such as DRUID, which uses four tests to judge users’ impairment.

Though messaging focused on the enforcement of laws against driving high may be well-received by those opposed to cannabis, such threats do little to convince or deter cannabis users, according to state officials. Instead, users reported liking safety campaign materials with an honest tone and straightforward approach.

Most users reported there were times they were uncomfortably high or that they knew they were not safe to drive after using cannabis. Transportation officials’ ad concept invoking that feeling of discomfort was the most effective at changing users’ attitudes and behaviors around driving after using, getting those who drive high to feel uncomfortable about that decision and rethink their beliefs. The messaging aims to influence users’ “gut check” they do before driving after using.

“We learned how different groups of people respond to different types of messages — and will use that knowledge to try to influence people to make smart choices,” Sam Cole, CDOT’s traffic safety communications manager, said in a release. “After all, there is no ‘typical’ marijuana consumer.”

Research recently published in the International Journal of Drug Policy suggests one place where officials could communicate with cannabis users is on the product packaging. In “Perceptions of cannabis health information labels among people who use cannabis in the U.S. and Canada,” researchers from the U.K., the U.S. and Australia analyzed how respondents to the 2019 Global Drug Survey felt about warning labels for cannabis products.

Though only a third of survey respondents supported a policy that would require warning labels for cannabis products, nearly 60% said a label about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis would make them consider changing their behavior. Of six labels presented to cannabis users — with others warning them about the possibility of developing a dependence on cannabis, the risks associated with adolescent use and more — the label about driving had the greatest impact.

As state officials found, however, more frequent users are less likely to believe such messages and are therefore less likely to change their behavior.

“As such, the adoption of cannabis health information labels can only represent part of an overall public health strategy to optimize the potential benefits and minimize the possible harms of legalization,” the researchers wrote.

The current labeling requirements in Colorado do make mention of the impact cannabis can have on users’ ability to drive, but leave wiggle room for users to feel confident after a “gut check.”

“Use of marijuana may impair your ability to drive a car or operate machinery,” current labeling requirements state.

In contrast, the label presented to Global Drug Survey respondents gave a clear command not to drive while high and focused more on the serious risks associated with driving under the influence.

“Don’t drive stoned,” the label stated. “Cannabis use delays your reaction time and is associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of fatal car accidents.”

With the conclusion of the “Cannabis Conversation” study, state transportation officials will launch the “Uncomfortable High” campaign. Officials will continue to work closely with dispensary companies, a trusted source of information for cannabis users, on in-store education collateral and training for “budtenders,” the salespeople at dispensaries.

Whittington said troopers need the community’s help to make northern Colorado roads safe.

“The decision to drive under the influence of drugs is a lot like other poor decisions that unfortunately people make too often, whether it’s driving while distracted or driving under the influence of alcohol,” he said. “I wish that the community could come together and recognize just how important safe highways are for our community and just how important drivers being committed to giving their full attention to safety is.”

To read the full “Cannabis Conversation” report, go to

DUI News DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

Police: Driver who crashed at roundabout had meth, fentanyl

MANITOWOC, Wis. (WBAY) – A Manitowoc man is facing impaired driving and drug charges after crashing through a roundabout in the city.

Police posted video of the roundabout crash on Facebook, saying it shows the dangers of impaired driving. Police say the suspect was in possession of meth and the powerful opiate fentanyl.

On June 9, at about 6:21 a.m., police were called to an apartment building at 1716 Cedar Grove Drive to check on the welfare of a man, 33, who was passed out inside a car in the parking lot.

Officers arrived at 6:32 a.m. The man drove away from the scene before officers could talk with him.

At 6:35 a.m., dispatchers received a 911 call reporting an accident near the roundabout on Memorial Drive and Waldo Blvd. The description of the car matched the one from the welfare check.

The driver again took off. Police set up a perimeter and called in the K-9 Unit.

DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

New ‘pregnancy test’ kits will be used to catch drug drivers in Notts

The new kit costs £16 – but out of 10 tests delivered, eight people tested positive

Superintendent Claire Rukas holding the new cocaine and cannabis test
Superintendent Claire Rukas holding the new cocaine and cannabis test

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Motorists who smoke cannabis or take cocaine behind the wheel will be targeted with a new pregnancy test-style kit to reduce deaths on Nottingham’s roads.

The new test is being widely distributed across Nottinghamshire Police – with any officers now able to issue it when they suspect a driver to be under the influence of drugs.

Chief constable Craig Guildford said tackling drug crime is one of the force’s main priorities, and being found with drugs in your system can result in a one year driving ban.

Police will also be targeting those on prescription drugs who have been warned not to drive, as this has also been an issue on Nottinghamshire’s roads.

Previously, testing drug drivers had been a lengthy process, which would result in blood needing to be taken, but these new kits will determine a driver’s state as soon as they are delivered.

New pregnancy style test finds out if drivers are on cocaine or cannabis
New pregnancy style test finds out if drivers are on cocaine or cannabis

Police have described them as looking like ‘pregnancy kits’. 

Police will take a sample of saliva from a person’s mouth. If the test turns blue then the person is under the influence.

Further investigations will then be carried out. 

In the first batch of 10 tests delivered, eight people tested positive for cocaine and cannabis.

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Superintendent Claire Rukas, who is the lead for operation support, told Nottinghamshire Live: “People traditionally think of drink driving but drug driving is also inherently unsafe and can cause lots of fatalities on the roads.

“We are pushing them out and officers do want to use them. It is like a pregnancy test.

“We want to make the roads safer. They will be widely distributed across the force.

“It just takes a spilt second to have a really nasty collision that could result in people’s deaths. You are now more likely to be caught and prosecuted for it.”

Knife crime team search car for drugs and weapons in Hucknall
Knife crime team search car for drugs and weapons in Hucknall (Image: Nottingham Post)

The new kits are much more expensive than those delivered for drink driving ­- £16 compared to 10p. But through ‘external funding’ the force has doubled the amount of drug driving tests.

Drug driving liason officer Francis Meylan said: “We didn’t want the price to be a stumbling block and so we have utilised ways to gain funding and have been working up a strategy to ensure hot spot areas and times are targeted but also ways that drug drivers can be caught completely unawares.”76516486337

Between April and May this year, 47 people have been tested, resulting in 33 arrests. This is almost double the amount of drivers they tested the previous year.

Police Constable Matthew Storor, who has been leading the project, added: “In the first batch of 10 tests we rolled out at the beginning of May, we got eight positive tests and two negatives.

“We want to send the message out there that if people drive under the influence of drugs, we will pursue you. It is our mission to make the roads as safe as can be.”

DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

How state and local police measure, enforce cannabis-impaired driving

http://How state and local police measure, enforce cannabis-impaired driving

(WAND) – While it’s now legal to use recreational marijuana in Illinois, it’s still against the law to drive while under the influence of the drug. While state and local law enforcement are working to keep stoned drivers off the road, some are questioning the reliability of cannabis impairment testing.

The Illinois State Police says, while cannabis use may have increased statewide in 2020, its focus remains the same – recognizing and removing impaired drivers from the road, regardless of the specific cause of impairment.

“Impairment is impairment, so it really doesn’t matter if the impairment is from alcohol, cannabis, prescription medication, heroin,” says Mike Pappas, Impaired Driving Coordinator, Illinois State Police. “If a person has impairment, they have impairment.”

The Decatur Police Department says essentially the same thing. Despite the recent hiring of a DUI Enforcement Officer, Chief Jim Getz insists that officer is policing all impaired driving in the city, not just drivers who use cannabis.

“That’s just unrealistic,” Getz says. “Somebody patrolling the streets, just looking for somebody driving under the influence of cannabis would be impossible… When an officer’s out looking and patrolling the streets, and watching for those drivers that may be under the influence, they don’t know at the time whether they’re under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, whatever it may be. Or maybe they’re not under the influence of anything, maybe they were distracted by their phone.”

Here’s how a cannabis DUI arrest happens in Illinois:

  •  If a law enforcement officer suspects a driver is impaired, they can pull the driver over and administer a series of field sobriety tests.
  •  If the driver doesn’t appear impaired to the officer, the officer will release them.
  •  If the officer suspects the driver is impaired, they will arrest the driver.
  •  If the officer suspects cannabis impairment – based on indicators like smell or demeanor – they’ll ask the driver to submit to blood and urine tests.
  •  The driver can refuse to submit to the tests, but they’ll lose their license for a year.
  • If the driver’s blood test shows 5 nanograms or more of THC per mL of whole blood, or 10 nanograms or more of THC per mL of another bodily substance, they will lose their driver’s license for 6 months.

Pappas says the amount of cannabis it would take to reach those levels depends on how it’s consumed, and it differs from person to person.

“There is no correlation between how much cannabis can be smoked and the impairment levels of the person,” Pappas says.

Instead of trying to determine the THC levels in one’s bloodstream, Pappas offers much simpler advice to avoid getting a cannabis DUI.

“Don’t drive after smoking cannabis,” he says.

While the Illinois State Police doesn’t track numbers on cannabis-related DUI arrests, Bloomington-based attorney Brendan Bukalski says he’s seen an increase in those types of cases this year, many involving drivers who he thinks were not truly impaired.

“It’s not uncommon for individuals to be arrested for cannabis DUIs and believe that they were not impaired,” Bukalski says. “In my experience, with the current DUI laws, most of the time, individuals are not impaired.”

Bukalski says he believes this is because using THC to measure impairment is problematic.

“Cannabis, when you consume it, you stop feeling that high within a couple of hours, but T-H-C can remain in your bloodstream for a long time,” he says.

“Very rarely do you see individuals arrested for DUI and they’re actively smoking a joint, or have smoked a joint within the last couple of hours.”

While the state of Illinois has assembled a DUI cannabis task force designed to improve DUI cannabis enforcement, that task force has not yet convened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More information on Cannabis DUIs can be found in the Illinois 2020 DUI Fact book here.

COVID-19 DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

‘Stay At Home’: Coronavirus Cancels Annual 4/20 Celebration In Denver

DENVER (CBS4) — Monday is 4/20, but the annual festival to celebrate all things marijuana has been cancelled because of the coronavirus. Law enforcement and organizations such as MADD are asking people to stay home this year.

Denver’s Civic Center Park, where the Mile High 420 Festival was planned to take place, is fenced off this year. The founder of the 4/20 event combined efforts with Denver’s Chief of Police to put out a video, asking people to stay home this year.

“We understand that you may want to celebrate some form of independence but we are not independent from this virus that does not discriminate,” said Miguel Lopez, founder of the Denver 420 rally.

“If you want to celebrate we ask that you find alternatives to coming downtown and celebrating,” said Chief Paul Pazen, with the Denver Police Department.

Every year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving team up with the Colorado State Patrol to spread a safety campaign about the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and having a safe ride home surrounding the unofficial cannabis holiday. This year however, the message is a little different.

“We thought, you know, the best thing to do is just join in with a public health messaging from the governor and say you know what, stay at home if you’re able to,“ explained Fran Lanzer, the State Executive Director of MADD. “You don’t need to be going out partying. Everybody should be staying at home.”

Troopers say they are still seeing DUI accidents and arrests on our roadways, despite the fact that people should be staying home. Troopers will be out on Monday, looking for impaired drivers.

The hope is on 4/20, people who choose to celebrate, will do so responsibly during the pandemic.

“There is never an excuse to drive impaired, but this weekend especially, there is no reason we should have even one impaired caused injury or fatal crash,” explained Chief Col. Matthew Packard, with Colorado State Patrol, in their campaign video posted online.

Lanzer said the goal is to have zero DUI arrests, zero DUI crashes, and zero COVID-19 community spread. They’re encouraging those who choose to celebrate to do so safely, without getting behind the wheel and putting others at risk.

“We really want everyone to do their part, do your part for our communities and keep our road safe,” he said.

The Law Firm of Bachus & Schanker, Uber and Native Roots also join MADD Colorado in asking everyone do their part to save lives on our roads and in our communities.

MADD not only works to spread awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence, but has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors. If you or someone you know needs assistance after a crash, you can get help through the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP.

DUI News DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

Driving Under the Influence and Prescription Drugs

When it comes to the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired where the sole intoxicant is prescription medication, the waters quickly get murky. 

The opioid epidemic has been a catalyst for several changes to criminal statutes in nearly every state. New laws setting harsh penalties for doctors or pharmacies complicit in running “pill mills,” or individuals with valid prescriptions who turn around and sell their medications for top dollar have become ubiquitous as legislatures seek ways to stem the flow of Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Fentanyl and several other powerful prescription medications. However, there is one area of criminal law which has grappled unsuccessfully with how to address the usage of these drugs and their potential implications on a person’s actions. When it comes to the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired where the sole intoxicant is prescription medication, the waters quickly get murky. Despite the ability to scientifically identify both the substances and their respective levels in a person’s body, the law remains vague on how to determine whether the prohibition against impaired driving was actually violated.

The obvious question, left completely unanswered by the New York legislature, is how to tell whether a person is impaired by drugs while operating a vehicle. By their very nature, prescription drugs are legal when appropriately taken and are, in many cases, necessary to allow a person to function. Without certain opioid pain medication, muscle relaxers, or mood stabilizers, some individuals have difficulty with everyday activities. But many of these medications have physiological effects, slow down reaction times, dull reflexes and cause fatigue, all of which could negatively influence a person’s ability to reasonably and safely operate a motor vehicle. When, then, can it be said that a person has become impaired by the use of these drugs?

In New York, the statutes that criminalize intoxicated driving are found in the Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL), specifically in §1192. In that section, subsections (1)-(3) very clearly define when a person can be arrested for drunk driving, and how to determine which alcohol-related statute applies. Notably, the law specifically states that when any individual has a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, they are considered intoxicated for the purposes of a criminal prosecution. There is no such delineation or bright-line limit when the charges involve prescription drugs.

To further complicate the issue, some people are afflicted with serious injuries or conditions and require long-term medication simply to get through the day. The body builds up tolerances to medications over time, and consequently there are individuals who require a significantly higher dosage of a drug to get the intended effect. There are also issues when multiple drugs are present in an individual’s system. Prosecutors are not pharmacists, and the pharmacokinetic effects of multiple drug interactions are often complex and difficult to predict. Additionally, many drugs do not present with the visible signs of intoxication that are commonly associated with alcohol use (red watery eyes, slurred speech, unsteady gait, etc.) and drugs emit no discernible odor.

New York Code of Criminal Justice: A Practical Guide is a guide to the criminal statutes in New York. In addition to the full text of the New York Penal Law and Criminal …

Our firm recently tried a case in California where our client, who had been taking prescribed medications, was charged with murder after a horrific motor vehicle accident resulted in the fatality of a young girl. The trial revolved around the issue of impairment as California, similar to New York, does not clearly define when an individual is impaired by prescription drugs under the law. Contextual arguments made based on witness observations as well as our client’s statements took center stage after the State’s forensic crime laboratory expert testified that looking solely at the levels of medications in person’s system could never lead to a scientific conclusion regarding impairment. In the absence of a credible expert opinion on the issue of impairment, the jury was left with no scientific standard by which to measure the facts in order to determine whether our client was actually impaired.

The unfortunate truth is that far too often the decision on whether to charge impaired driving when prescription drugs are involved is results-driven. If there is an accident, especially one with serious injuries or a fatality, where the driver has taken prescription medication, the prosecutor is likely to charge driving while impaired. To prove their case at trial, since the medication levels alone do not establish intoxication, prosecutors must also focus on the quality of the defendant’s driving in order to show that there was actual impairment to the ability to operate the vehicle safely. But with no frame of reference, it can be difficult to differentiate between bad driver who simply caused an accident, as opposed to a person whose ability to drive was impaired by drugs to the degree that their driving was a criminal offense. Alternatively, if a serious injury or death does occur, a jury may be looking for an excuse to hold someone accountable, and impairment by prescription drugs presents a convenient explanation for why a traffic collision took place.

Because of the complexities inherent in these specific prosecutions, selection of a toxicology and pharmacology expert is vitally important. Toxicologists perform tests to determine what specific drugs are present and pharmacologists explain the effects of the substances on the body, or how multiple drugs would interact with each other. During a trial for impaired driving based on the use of prescription medication, it is necessary for the defense lawyer to present a clear and consistent alternative theory of the events leading to the arrest, one which explains why the defendant was not impaired, supported by something other than mere speculation. Without another possibility to consider, the jury will credit the prosecutor’s claim that the drugs were overpowering, and that the defendant should have known better than to drive in that condition. Witness observations and statements, photographs and accident reconstructions are integral in crafting a strong defense.

There is no question that DUI cases involving prescription medication are complicated and present a unique set of challenges. But after a thorough review of the evidence in the case, with attention to detail and putting all of the discovery into the appropriate context, top lawyers using credible experts craft strong defenses and use the lack of legislative clarity to their benefit, giving their clients the best chances for success.

DUID-Marijuana-Rx-Illegal Drugs

12 Million U.S. Residents Drove Under Influence of Marijuana in 2018

TUESDAY, Dec. 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) — In 2018, 12 million U.S. residents reported driving under the influence of marijuana in the previous 12 months, according to research published in the Dec. 20 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Alejandro Azofeifa, D.D.S., a consultant from Washington, D.C., and colleagues provide the most recent national estimates of self-reported driving under the influence of marijuana and illicit drugs other than marijuana for persons aged ≥16 years using 2018 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The researchers found that during 2018, 12 and 2.3 million U.S. residents (4.7 and 0.9 percent) reported driving under the influence of marijuana and under the influence of illicit drugs other than marijuana, respectively, in the previous 12 months. The prevalence of driving under the influence was increased among men and persons aged 16 to 34 years.

“Impaired driving is a serious public health concern that needs to be addressed to safeguard the health and safety of all who use the road, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists,” the authors write. “Collaboration among public health, transportation safety, law enforcement, and federal and state officials is needed for the development, evaluation, and further implementation of strategies to prevent alcohol-, drug-, and polysubstance-impaired driving.”