How can you be under the influence of drugs when you aren’t?

“Every state needs a law … defining, in essence, a crime divorced from impairment; … that says if you use an illicit drug and drive, you have broken the law. … We need to treat DUID as important [an offense] as murder, rape, and child molestation.” — John Bobo, Director, National Traffic Law Center. “Enforcement and Prosecution of Drugged Driving Laws,” speech given February 23, 2004.— John Bobo, Director, National Traffic Law Center. “Enforcement and Prosecution of Drugged Driving Laws,” speech given February 23, 2004.There’s a new front in the “War on Drugs” and its name is DUID. DUID, short for “driving under the influence of drugs,” is the latest buzzword among politicians and police; however, in this case, words can be deceiving.

Though billed by their sponsors as a necessary tool to crack down on “drugged driving” offenses, the increasingly popular “zero tolerance” laws have nothing to do with promoting public safety or keeping dangerous drivers off the roadways. On the contrary, the goal is simply to punish those who have consumed a contraband substance – particularly marijuana – at some time in the past.

Most states still have “effect based” laws that forbid the operation of a motor vehicle if a person is either “under the influence” or sometimes “incapable of driving safely” due to the use of a drug. Virtually nobody objects to such laws. However “per se” laws prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle if an individual has any amount of a drug or its metabolite in his/her system. This approach is based on convenience – not science. It is, in the words of one of its chief proponents, “divorced from impairment.”

In the case of marijuana, these laws are particularly troublesome. Marijuana’s primary metabolite, THC-COOH, is inactive (i.e., no intoxicating effects whatsoever), but is detectable in urine for days and weeks after use. Consequently, under a “zero tolerance” law someone who smoked a joint in Amsterdam on Monday could be arrested the following Friday in Detroit and charged with driving under the influence even though he or she is clearly no longer impaired.

This is the next great frontier for NHTSA, and they have plans to withhold Federal highway funds from states that don’t adopt draconian “zero tolerance” legislation. And don’t think it’s just marijuana. Your grandmother’s Valium is also in their cross-hairs.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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2 Responses to “How can you be under the influence of drugs when you aren’t?”

  1. Chris Van Meter Says:

    Your comment about the fact someone could smoke a joint on Monday and then arrested on Friday for DUI. Come on man, I know you attorneys need to reach for stuff but that comment is so stupid. So you get stopped, no odor of marijuana, not physical manifestaions ie: redding of the conjuntiva, rebound dilation, raised taste buds, etc. then on the SFST’s you would show no impairment, how and why would the officer arrest you for DUI??? Please, I am dying to here this one.

  2. This is in response to Chris van Meter. Mr. van Meter overlooks the fact that people are arrested every day for DUI – marijuana without any of the manifestations he assumes will be present.
    1) Example: An officer claims he smells marijuana, asks for consent to search, finds some rolling papers, performs some field sobriety tests (which he claims the person failed and claims show impairment due to marijuana). That person is often arrested for DUI, and inactive metabolites from smoking days ago will be found in the urine.
    2) A person is arrested for DUI-alcohol, but little or none is found in a blood test. That person’s urine will be tested for drugs and metabolites. Bingo! A DUI-marijuana charge was just born. In Georgia the crime lab routinely tests for drugs when the blood alcohol concentration is under .08 grams.
    3) An officer claims he smells marijuana (green or burnt), performs FST’s and arrests the person. Then the inactive metabolite is found in the urine. I have one set for trial next week where the only FST performed was the walk and turn, and my client exhibited no clues.
    Therefore, Mr. van Meter’s assumptions simply cannot withstand the realities of modern day DUI prosecution in America.

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