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Marijuana Drug Driving In Colorado and the DUID Law

by Colorado DUID – DUI – DWAI Attorney – Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg

Driving Under The Influence of Marijuana In Colorado

Colorado DUI-D – Driving Under the Influence of Drugs cases will see a significant increase with the 2012 passage of laws regarding possession and use of small amounts of marijuana in Colorado. It is also anticipated there will be major changes to the investigation and prosecution of DUID – or Driving Under the Influence of Drugs cases and the Colorado laws governing these cases.

Marijuana Drug Driving In Colorado

Marijuana Drug Driving In Colorado

Proving a driving under the influence of drugs charge is significantly more difficult for the DA than it’s analogous DUI – DWAI charge.

For a comprehensive analysis of DUID Cases in Colorado – Click on this LINK…

This page addresses the drug marijuana and the specific prosecution of DUID cases where marijuana is the suspected drug that has been consumed and is allegedly affecting the driver under investigation of drugged driving.

2012 – The Attempted Passage Of Laws Governing Marijuana Blood Levels

Although defeated in the last several years – attempts at legislation governing “acceptable levels” of marijuana metabolite in a driver’s blood work.. is again before the Colorado legislature..

Colorado DUID – are prosecuted using the results of a blood test intended to screen traces of drug use in the driver’s blood work. The drug screen used in a Colorado suspected DUID tests for barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cannabinoids (THC), cocaine, ethanol, methadone, methamphetamine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and propoxyphene (Darvon).

Establishes Limits for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

The bill that prohibits driving under the influence of marijuana if the driver’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood. It:

•Expands the definition of driving under the influence (DUI) to include driving when the driver’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of delta 9-tetrahydracannibanol (THC) per milliliter of blood, whereas existing law limited the definition to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more

• It classifies driving, including the period within 2 hours after driving, when the driver’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood as a misdemeanor.

In the suspected DUID Marijuana case – the DA tries to establish that the active ingredient in marijuana – THC impaired your ability to drive.

Here’s the rub – marijuana (THC) produces metabolites that can be found in your blood long after the substance has lost it’s ability to impact on your driving ability. Simply put – the substance’s ability to impair your driving has worn off.

The Limits of Marijuana – THC In Your Body

If Colorado passes the new law in 2012 the bill will make Colorado the third state in the U.S to adopt a driver’s blood standard for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), – the psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana.

Passage of the bill would mean that drivers would be limited to 5 nano-grams of THC per milliliter of blood in their system when operating a vehicle.

DUID Testing Standards In Other States

Certain states – Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania have, which allows medical marijuana, and Ohio have a THC limit of 2 nanograms for driving. Pennsylvania has a limit of 5 nanograms, but that’s a state health-department guideline, which can be introduced in driving-violation cases.

Some marijuana activists say pot-related crash data are incomplete and shouldn’t be used to impose a blood-level limit. They say officer observations, not blood levels, are better for showing a driver is impaired.

A Tolerance Builds Over Time To Marijuana and Its Impact

Many worry that medical- marijuana or other regular users of marijuana will be wrongly convicted of driving under the influence of drugs. It is common knowledge that some medical-marijuana users can have a high THC blood level even when the driver is not impaired and that the amount stays in a patient’s system long after they’ve used the drug.

“We risk convicting people of an impaired-driving infraction when they’re not actually impaired,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. “That is an injustice that is a major problem.”

Medical marijuana and other persistent users often have a high THC blood level even when not under the influence. This is because it is well documented that marijuana stays in the system for a very long time after using the drug.

The opposition to the bill would decrease if the nanogram level were increased to 10, where “there’s more guarantee that the person is actually impaired.

Some Scientific Opinions Used To Attack The DUID THC Blood Test At Trial

“Due to the evasiveness of the collection procedure and the cost of laboratory analysis, routine screening of blood for drugs in drivers has generally been viewed as impractical.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “State of Knowledge of Drug-Impaired Driving”

“It is not possible to conclude anything about a driver’s impairment on the basis of his/her plasma concentrations.”

U.S. Department of Transportation “Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance: Effects of THC on Driving Perfomance”

“Scientific evidence on cannabis and driving is not yet sufficient to permit the selection of a numerical enforceable THC limit with the same level of confidence as for alcohol.”

Grotenherman et. al. “Developing Science-Based Per Se Limits For Driving Under The Influence of Cannabis”

“Substantial whole blood THC concentrations persist multiple days after drug discontinuation in heavy chronic cannabis users.”

Karschner et. al. “Do Delta-9 THC Concentrations Indicate Recent Use in Chronic Cannabis Users?”

“In some chronic users, THC may be present in blood for a period of days after past use, long after any performance impairing effects have worn off.”

Armentano, P. “Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review”

“This is a particular concern for medical marijuana patients who are using marijuana in compliance with state laws and their doctors’ advice, but who would likely test positive for marijuana while sober.”

Marijuana and DUI Laws: How Can We Best Guard Against Impaired Driving?

“Motorists may be criminally prosecuted if trace levels of cannabis or cannabis metabolites are found in the driver’s bodily fluids, even if the individual is neither under the influence nor impaired to drive.”

Researchers Proposed Per Se Guidelines for Cannabis and Drugged Driving

“Heavy users might exhibit measurable cannabinoid concentrations in blood, even if the last cannabis use was more than 24 hours ago.”

Colorado’s 5 ng/ml per se DUID bill dies again as new research backs higher thresholds for regular users

“This report demonstrates that a 5 nanogram per se law would be: 1) unnecessary 2) unsupported by the science; and 3) unlikely to significantly improve public safety”

Marijuana DUI Workgroup Recommendation to the Drug Policy Task Force and Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice

Research has demonstrated that a 5 nanogram per se law would be:

1. Unnecessary;

2. Unsupported by the science; and

3. Unlikely to significantly improve public safety.

A Per Se Limit is not Supported by Current Scientific Research

A 5 nanogram per se limit would convict the innocent and unimpaired. Research shows near consensus that a 5 nanogram per se limit would result in unimpaired and innocent people being wrongly convicted.

No One Is Arguing That True Drugged Driving Is Not Hazardous

It is undisputed that certain drugs can act on the brain to alter perception, cognition, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time, and other faculties required for safe driving. However – having said that – the effects of specific drugs of abuse on the individual – MAY DIFFER depending on their mechanisms of action, the amount consumed, the history of the user, and many many other factors.

Your Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer has to be well versed in the drugs involved in your Colorado DUID case. Because these effects are multifaceted and complex – MUCH more research is required to understand marijuana’s impact on the ability of drivers to react to complex and unpredictable situations. Until that research has been done – these cases should be carefully scrutinized by Colorado District Attorneys – and dismissed when possible.

Marijuana and Colorado DUID Cases

“Intoxication with cannabis leads to a slight impairment of psychomotor … function. … [However,] the impairment in driving skills does not appear to be severe, even immediately after taking cannabis, when subjects are tested in a driving simulator.

This may be because people intoxicated by cannabis appear to compensate for their impairment by taking fewer risks and driving more slowly, whereas alcohol tends to encourage people to take great risks and drive more aggressively.”

REFERENCE: UK House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology. 1998. Ninth Report. London: United Kingdom. Chapter 4: Section 4.7.

Teenagers and Marijuana Drugged Driving in Colorado

A recent study has shown that 19% of teenagers in the USA say they have driven a car while under the influence of marijuana, compared to 13% who say they have driven after consuming alcohol (by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). Marijuana use among 12-graders is at its highest level in three decades. 36% of teenagers believe that consuming marijuana has no negative effects on driving skills and 19% of teenagers believe that consuming alcohol does not undermine driving safety.

This is a major problem – as parents and friends we all have to address this issue fairly and comprehensively.

Finally Some Practical Advice from www.flexyourrights.org – an ecellent website!

What if police say they smell marijuana?

“If police say they smell marijuana coming from your vehicle, you’re in a tough situation. Courts have ruled that the odor of contraband gives officers probable cause to perform a search. For this reason, police are quick to claim that they smell something and sometimes they might even lie about it.

All you can really do is say, “Officer, I have nothing to hide, but I don’t consent to any searches.” If they search you anyway and something is found, you’ll need an attorney to help you fight the charges. Unfortunately, police sometimes use tricks like this to circumvent your constitutional rights and there’s no perfect way to handle the situation. Of course, they are most likely to do this if they are suspicious of you for some reason, so do your best to stay calm.

In many cases, the officer will mention marijuana just to see how you react. If you appear nervous, the officer’s suspicions will escalate. Police often think they can tell by looking at you whether you’re a “pothead,” so be extra careful if there’s anything about your appearance that might draw their attention. How you dress and what kind of vehicle you drive is a personal choice, but police definitely look out for certain “stoner” stereotypes. If your look makes you stick out, you should think carefully about what items to keep in the car with you.

Finally, never smoke marijuana in or around your car. At Flex Your Rights, we hear many stories from people who’ve been arrested, and smoking marijuana in public places like vehicles is the #1 cause of avoidable arrests.”

Please call our law firm if you have questions about ..

Marijuana Drug Driving In Colorado

H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 30 years (as of 2012). For the First 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases.

In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations. Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277

If you have questions about Marijuana Drug Driving In Colorado in the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg will be pleased to answer those questions and to provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters.

In the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters as regards Marijuana Drug Driving In Colorado.


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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