In November 2016, Florida joined a growing number of states who have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Florida’s statute allows the use of medical marijuana and the state’s Department of Health is drafting guidelines to regulate the process. In addition to this state-wide effort, the City of Tampa recently decriminalized the possession of marijuana for amounts up to 20 grams, re-categorizing it as a civil infraction. Marijuana users who are stopped under suspicion of a DUI pose unique challenges to law enforcement agencies to legally prove the person was too impaired to drive safely.
Alcohol vs. Marijuana
Part of the challenge of proving a DUI case involving marijuana is how long the drug stays in your system after it is smoked. Alcohol remains in the blood stream for a fairly short amount of time, which means that a blood test, urinalysis or breathalyzer are accurate tools to determine alcohol levels when properly administered. The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which can show up in blood up to 30 days after the person has ingested it. This means that someone who has smoked pot a week ago will still fail a blood test, even though they are completely sober.
Marijuana and Field Sobriety Tests
Because medical sobriety tests, such as blood and breathalyzer, are ineffective in determining impairment, most law enforcement officers utilize standard field sobriety tests to determine if someone is too impaired to operate a motor vehicle. The problem is that there is no scientific evidence to prove that these tests are effective in determining impairment when applied to marijuana users. While new sobriety tests specific to marijuana are being developed, none have yet been accepted for use by law enforcement agencies.
If You Are Arrested for Marijuana DUI
If you are arrested for a DUI under any circumstances, you need to immediately contact a skilled criminal defense attorney. If you have been using marijuana, the same is true, but call a defense attorney who has expertise in defending marijuana DUIs. The defense process is different, and the attorney will challenge the legitimacy of the field sobriety test.
Possession of marijuana is no longer a crime in the City of Tampa and therefore is not a reason to arrest if the amount is 20 grams or less. With the upcoming medical marijuana rules, using marijuana is sanctioned in many situations. Law enforcement agencies have no standardized field tests to prove impairment and you need an attorney who understands the unique defense strategies available to their clients.
Ben Stechschulte is a board certified criminal defense attorney with expertise in all types of DUI representation, including marijuana. He stays up-to-date on the latest regulations that may impact his clients to assure he provides the best possible representation. Contact our office today to learn more about marijuana DUI defense.