Up for public vote this fall is a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana use in Florida. The ability to buy and smoke marijuana legally could lead to more marijuana users on the road. This could in turn lead to more marijuana-related DUI arrests and DUI arrests where officers mistakenly presume marijuana intoxication. However, marijuana-DUI cases are much harder to prove for prosecutors than alcohol-DUI cases.
No Legal Limit
Driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana is illegal in Florida. You aredeemed legally impaired to drive if your blood-alcohol level registers 0.08 percent. However, no similar legal limit exists for marijuana. Therefore, to make out a marijuana-DUI case against you, the prosecutor must prove that you consumed marijuana and that doing so actually impaired your ability to drive safely.
Proof of Impairment
The prosecutor will rely on the arresting officer’s observations of you and the results of your field sobriety tests, such as the “walk and turn” and “one-legged stand,” to establish that you were impaired at the time of the stop. While these tests are effective in singling out a driver who is under the influence of alcohol, they are not very good at identifying a stoned driver.
Research studies have found that heavy marijuana users tend to pass the field sobriety tests while less frequent users don’t do so well. The difference is a matter of building a tolerance to marijuana. Studies have also shown that stoned driving is less dangerous than drunk driving, as pot smokers tend to drive slower and better than alcohol drinkers.
Positive Drug Tests
If the officer knows or suspects that you had used marijuana (i.e., he saw your medical marijuana card), he may ask you to submit a urine sample at the police station for drug testing. It’s fair to assume that a driver with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level probably drank alcohol shortly before driving. In contrast, marijuana can stay in the body for days and even weeks after it was last ingested. Consequently, you could be charged with marijuana-DUI even if you had not smoked pot in weeks.
Winning the Marijuana-DUI Case
However, you cannot be convicted of a marijuana-DUI charge simply because you had detectable levels of marijuana in your system. This is good news for medical marijuana patients or other heavy users who consistently have high levels of marijuana in their systems. If you passed the field sobriety tests and there was no other evidence to suggest that you were impaired at the time you were driving, the state does not have a solid marijuana-DUI case against you. As an experienced marijuana-DUI defense attorney and a former DUI prosecutor, I can help you protect your rights.