How Police Test for a Marijuana DUI

As more and more states legalize marijuana in some form, lawmakers and law enforcement are searching for ways to effectively and efficiently test for marijuana impairment while driving.Everyone is aware of alcohol-related arrests and how the police check for impairment. Some of these tests are done at the roadside in what is called field sobriety tests. If you fail those, you are often arrested and subjected to more conclusive testing.The same happens when you are suspected of marijuana use while driving. The tests are different however, and the penalties can be different as well. It is important to know the laws in your own state, as some of the following tips and laws may not apply to your current state of residence.What Does Under the Influence Mean in Terms of Marijuana Use?There are several different methods of determining “under the influence”—again, depending on the state.Any amount, no matter how small, can mean you are under the influence in some states.Other states say that you must be above a certain threshold determined by either blood or urine to be considered under the influence.States that use “per se” lawswill charge you as impaired with any amount, no matter how small.In a very small number of states, your behavior can be used to call you under the influence regardless of the actual amount of marijuana in your system at the time.Initial Tests and Follow-up TestsAs with alcohol, there are field tests and then confirmation tests if there is probable cause to arrest you. It is important to remember that the officer cannot arrest you without probable cause; however, you can be detained if you are not cooperating or if there is more than minor suspicion.There are currently no universal tests. Breathalyzer tests for marijuana use have proven to be less than effective.Most jurisdictions use behavior as well as physical factors such as pupil dilation and tongue color to determine if you are potentially under the influence while driving.Other common field sobriety tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand.Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: This is when an officer moves an object or finger back and forth in front of an individual’s face to see if their eyes jerk at a certain angle, typically less than 45 degrees, which indicates impairment.Walk and Turn Test: During the walk and turn test, where an individual is asked to walk in a straight line and turn, law enforcement officers are looking for any wavering in balance, not following instructions properly, or any veering off of the straight line.One-Leg Stand Test: This is when the test taker will be asked to stand on one leg for a certain amount of time and the officer will look for easy loss of balance.If you are suspected of being under the influence, you may be arrested and taken to a holding facility, where you will be asked to submit to either blood or urine tests to determine the level of marijuana metabolites in your system.These metabolites remain in your system for days, weeks, and even months. However, there are several states that set a threshold of five nanograms to be considered “under the influence.”Even AAA disagrees with this threshold as a standard for impairment, saying that there is no evidence that THC level is a reliable indicator for driving fitness.Saliva swab tests are being administered more often in some states. These test for THC as well as several other drugs and prescription medications in saliva. However, there is some disagreement on the reliability of these tests as certain drugs can leave traces behind in saliva for up to three days after use.Marijuana breathalyzers and several other marijuana DUI testers are being developed and tested around the United States.In some states, you will face serious penalties not only for driving under the influence but for the use of marijuana as well.Fines, lawyer fees, and insurance hikes will be costly.You’ll also be required to get SR-22 insurance, which is a pain. It is important to know the rules of the state you live in as well as any state you may be traveling to.What direction do you think this will go? Leave your thought in the comments below.
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