Trends in Anne Arundel Drug DUI Cases
It is important to understand that the trends for drug-related DUI cases are going to closely parallel alcohol-DUI cases. The arrest is almost exactly the same up to the point where the individual submits to a breathalyzer test. With the drug DUI arrest, the officer pulls a driver over and asks the person to step out of the car to take the field sobriety test. Depending on the results, the officer arrests the person, transports them back to the police station, and asks them to submit to breathalyzer test.
Once the breathalyzer test comes back negative, the drug DUI investigation becomes different from an alcohol investigation. At that point, the officer asks the individual to speak to a Drug Recognition Expert so that that officer can make the determination as to what is causing the impairment. After the DRE evaluation, the individual is asked to submit to a blood chemical test. It is the last two steps that may be different in a drug DUI versus an alcohol DUI.
In terms of the trial for a drug DUI or alcohol DUI, the trial plans are the same. There are a couple of additional witnesses for a drug DUI, the Drug Recognition Expert and anyone who is required to submit evidence for the blood. These are the phlebotomist who drew the blood, the chemist who analyzed the blood, and an expert witness to explain the blood test to the judge or the jury.
Impact of Trend of Marijuana Legalization
Given the trend towards marijuana legalization, there should be more § 21-902 (d) prosecutions for marijuana impaired driving. The decriminalization consumption will go up and so will arrests for impaired driving. Officers will be charging a § 21-902 (d) offense for any individual they find in possession of marijuana. If they pull somebody over and find that the person has a certain number of grams of marijuana, the officer cannot write a criminal citation for marijuana possession which is decriminalized. Instead, they may write a drug impaired driving violation.
If Maryland legalizes marijuana, Maryland legislators will consider a marijuana per se statute. Colorado had a bit of difficulty pushing a marijuana per se statute because, unlike alcohol, individuals with a higher tolerance for marijuana experience less impairment with the same concentration of marijuana in their blood as opposed to people who do not regularly use marijuana.
Some attorneys in Colorado who have been winning cases believe that despite the per se statute there was no impairment because the individual regularly smoked marijuana. This may be an area of law where a lot of change will take place. They are going to have many attempts at trying to regulate it.
At the moment, it is significantly harder to prove that a driver is operating a vehicle while high on drugs than it is to prove drunk driving charges because of the lack of drug per se limits. In most alcohol DUI cases, the state does not have to prove that the individual is actually impaired. They have to prove that the breath test was properly conducted, it is admissible and the result is above a 0.08. There is no burden of proving impairment which sometimes can be one of the toughest things to prove. With drug DUI cases, the state must prove impairment in every single case because there is no per se limit. This makes their jobs significantly harder.
Trends in Defense Strategies
Strategies used in the legal defense of someone charged with being intoxicated on drugs while driving varies from case to case. Every case is different, unique, and has its own personalized legal strategy. Sometimes the defense attorney can challenge the actual driving because the officer did not observe the individual driving or there may be a doubt as to who actually was operating the motor vehicle. Other times the evidence may be challenged. The state is not able to prove that the individual is actually impaired. This happens in cases where there are no field sobriety tests, the field sobriety tests were invalid, or there is no evidence to bad driving.
When someone is pulled over for equipment violation and they do not do the field sobriety tests, submit to a DRE evaluation, or provide a blood sample to the state, it is difficult to prove any kind of impairment. The things necessary to prove impairment are not present in the case and that hinders the state’s ability to prosecute the impaired driving case.