When most people hear “OUI” or Operating Under the Influence, they think drunk driving. However, in Massachusetts it is also illegal to drive under the influence of drugs, such as marijuana. This crime is called OUI Drugs. Since marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts, more people are driving stoned and getting caught. If this happens to you or someone you love, a lawyer will be able to help you fight the charge.
What are the Field Sobriety Tests for OUI Marijuana?
Field sobriety tests are an important part of challenging an OUI marijuana charge. A person’s performance on a field sobriety test can play a big role in whether a judge or a jury convicts or acquits someone. When police pull someone over, they almost always administer a coordination test to determine if the person can continue driving safely. The problem is that this test was designed decades ago and designed for people driving under the influence of alcohol, not drugs.
Juries have a lot of discretion when it comes to considering how a roadside test is weighed in court. This means they will look at many different factors, such as:
- Mental clarity
- Ability to retain and follow directions
- Ability to perform tasks requiring divided attention
In a recent Massachusetts case, Commonwealth v. Gerhardt, the courts outlined a new set of rules called a jury instruction on how police can conduct a roadside test for OUI marijuana.
The rules state that roadside tests for OUI marijuana, like walking a straight line or balancing on one foot, are notscientific. This means a person could have difficulty performing a test for reasons that do not have to do with smoking weed. In this case, the appeals court ruled that a police officer’s observations of the field sobriety test alone is not enoughto convict someone. Small details can make all the difference in whether a person is acquitted.
In the past, police officers would give a final opinion on whether they thought that the defendant “passed” or “failed” a field sobriety test. Today, when a case is presented, there is no pass or fail opinion permitted. The police officer can testify to the observations on the test, but cannot give an opinion on how valid those test are. This is helpful to demonstrate that a person is not under the influence.
How do you test for marijuana in a person?
Testing for alcohol in a person’s blood is much more straightforward than testing for the chemicals that make a person high. A person who drives drunk can do tests like a breathalyzer, which can provide a number that gives an idea on how much alcohol is in a person. With weed, there is not yet a reliable breathalyzer test to detect the chemical compound THC, which makes a person high.
Additionally, THC stays in a person’s system much longer than alcohol does. Marijuana can stay in the body for nearly thirty days. This means a person who recently smoked could have marijuana in their system but be completely sober.
Even taking a urine sample to test for the presence of marijuana would not likely be admissible in court because of how unreliable the test typically is.
In summary, it can be difficult for the government to prove THC impairment in court given the difficulties of scientifically testing for weed in a person’s body. Experts and scientific studies have acknowledged that this is true.
Are the minimum penalties the same for OUI Alcohol?
Yes, the minimum penalties for OUI marijuana are the same as OUI Alcohol. For first offenders, this includes:
- 45-90-day suspension of license
- 12-24 month’s probation with standard probation fee
- Between $500 and $5,000 in other fines, fees, and court costs
- 16-week drug awareness program
Fortunately, as with an OUI Alcohol charge, there are legal defenses to a criminal accusation of OUI marijuana. Police need evidence of that a person is under the influence of marijuana and that as a result that person cannot operate a vehicle safely.
Getting in touch with an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer is the first step you should take if you are charged with OUI marijuana.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH OUI DRUGS, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.