Marijuana DUI: Legal Challenges to Detection and Prosecution

Posted by James Ferguson | Nov 30, 2019 | 0 Comments

DUI or driving under the influence is usually associated with consuming too much alcohol. As such, law enforcement offices have mastered ways to detect drunkenness. These include the use of field sobriety tests, breathalyzers, and blood tests. They can also detect it before conducting any formal testing on the offender by observing erratic movements while driving and the presence of slurred speech. DUI can sometimes be associated with other inebriating drugs, though unlike alcohol, the observable effects of other controlled substances vary from person to person. Specifically, the effects of marijuana usage varies widely and accurate “on the spot” testing mechanisms are not always available. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to detect and prosecute marjiuana DUI cases.

Detection Issues
As discussed above, the primary issue with mariajunana DUI is that it is quite difficult to determine that it is occuring in the first place. The tell tale signs of driving while impaired can be a start such as swerving in and out of lanes, an inability to stay in one's lane or excessive speeding. At the least, these signs can create enough reasonable suspicion for a police officer to lawfully stop a motorist. It is important to remember that the standard for reasonable suspicion is a low standard. It only requires that the officer have an objectively justifiable suspicion that is based on facts and circumstances. With that, the officer does not have to believe that the motorist is under the influence of alcohol or any other specific substance. He or she must only be suspicious of the circumstances at hand.

No Standard for Impairment
Even with the low standard of reasonable suspicion, law enforcement officers still find it difficult to find a bright line rule to determine impairment. In most states, including Mississippi, an individual is charged with DUI if their Blood Alcohol Content is .08% or greater. However, there is no generally agreed-upon standard for marijuana because the content and its effect on each individual varies greatly. As such, the standard for bringing forth a charge can differ from one person to another. Recently, some states have implemented an impairment standard of one to five nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. However, to determine this, a physical exam is conducted after compliance by the individual.

Obtaining Evidence for a Fair Prosecution
The lack of evidence then contributes to unfair prosecution if the case reaches a jury or judge. Many questions arise at this juncture including whether or not the arbiter of the case can rely solely on an officer's account of the incident to bring forth a conviction. At trial, other evidence such as eyewitness testimony and dashboard camera footage are also helpful. Because without physical evidence, reasonable doubt comes into play.

Let Us Help with Your DUI Case
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is a seasoned DUI attorney with years of experience litigating alcohol and drug DUI cases. If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI, contact us now. We provide aggressive legal representation for individuals just like you. We will craft your best defense and ensure that the evidence brought against is just and fair.

See related blog posts:
How a DUI Arrest Can Affect Your Employment
I Have not Been Drinking - I Can Juggle!

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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