If You Drive High, You Get a DUI

Man driving and smoking joint

Many drivers in New Jersey have likely heard the slogan, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” which was part of a popular campaign to combat drunk driving. Now, with the increase in states legalizing marijuana, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has added another slogan to its portfolio: “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. If You Drive High, You Get a DUI.”

In addition to increased legalization, the NHTSA is focusing on studies that show an increase in the percentage of intoxicated driving crashes caused by drug impairment as compared to alcohol impairment. Alcohol is still involved in the majority of DUIs and DWIs, but the percentage involving marijuana, narcotics, and prescription drugs is slowly increasing. For this reason, police officers across the country, including in New Jersey, will be on heightened alert to arrest drivers suspected of driving while high.

New Studies Suggests Legalizing Marijuana Could Lead to More Accidents

Two studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), released last month, are now suggesting that the rate of motor vehicle accidents may have increased by as much as 6-percent in states where recreational marijuana has become legal. The increase was specifically noted in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as compared with neighboring states where marijuana has not been legalized for recreational use.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, with Oregon and Nevada following in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
One study was based on the frequency of insurance claims made for vehicular collisions in the aforementioned states, compared with the control states of Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, based on data for January 2012 through October 2017. The data was also adjusted to control for differences in the rated driver population, insured vehicle fleet, the mix of urban versus rural exposure, unemployment, weather and seasonality.

Another study looked at just the number of police-reported crashes made from 2012 to 2016 in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, to determine how the rate of crashes changed after retail sales of marijuana began. This study estimates that the three states saw a 5.2-percent increase in the rate of crashes.

Marijuana Legalization in New Jersey

As previously discussed on the Edward M. Janzekovich law blog, there have been many discussions to legalize marijuana or THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in New Jersey for recreational use in the near future. Currently, it remains a controlled substance in this state and is only legal for medicinal use.

In addition to Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, marijuana has also been legalized for recreational use in Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and the District of Columbia, but it remains an illegal controlled substance federally. The new studies from the IIHS and HLDI may make legalization more difficult in the state.

Regardless of whether marijuana becomes legalized for recreational use, it will remain illegal to drive while impaired or “drive high.” New Jersey police officers are already on heightened alert to the possibility of impaired driving due to intoxicating drugs and marijuana, and the State already employs specially trained officers used to recognize drivers under the influence of marijuana. However, there is no perfect test to determine if someone is actually impaired as the result of marijuana, and many drivers have been wrongly accused.

If you or someone you know is pulled over and accused, arrested, or charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, drugs, or any other substance, you may have a legitimate defense to the charges of intoxicated driving. For that reason, it is important to contact a good defense lawyer as soon as possible. A good attorney will know the best defense in your case and may be able to get the charges dismissed completely.

New Jersey DUI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Defend You if You are Charged with Driving While High

If you or someone you know is charged with drunk driving or driving high, it is extremely important to contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney who can explain your rights to you and help defend you. A good attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI/DUI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

Federal Lawsuit Raises Questions about the Reliability of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) in DUI cases

Police officer placing a female driver under arrest.

A recent federal lawsuit is shining a light on so called Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), and aiming to raise questions about whether or not DREs are truly able to identify signs of intoxication or if their tactics are fake science and no more effective in the field than guessing or bias.

Drug Recognition Experts (DREs)

As we have discussed previously in the Edward M. Janzekovich law blog, there is currently no technology that would allow a police officer to quickly determine whether or not a driver has been driving under the influence of many drugs. Unlike in the case of alcohol intoxication, there is no “breathalyzer” that can reliably test for blood alcohol level when it comes to many drugs and intoxication.

A DRE is a police officer who has special training in identifying if someone is under the influence of drugs, what kind of drugs they are on, and whether their ability to drive has been impaired or not – whether or not they are driving high. DREs are certified in tactics that are supposed to be especially designed to allow the officers to identify when someone is under the influence of drugs such as marijuana, for which intoxication tests do not currently exist.

There are seven (7) categories of drugs that a drug recognition expert is trained to detect — Central Nervous System Depressants, Inhalants, Dissociative Anesthetics, Cannabis, Central Nervous System Stimulants, Hallucinogens and Narcotic Analgesics. Notably, their evaluations are done through a visual assessment of the driver, known as the “12-step DRE protocol”.

The Story Behind the Federal Lawsuit

Katelyn Ebner, a 23-year-old Georgia resident was recently pulled over by a police officer named Tracy Carroll, who is a DRE. Ebner was originally pulled over for failing to maintain her lane of traffic, when Carroll decided that Ebner was under the influence of marijuana, based on his observations. Ebner was adamant that she did not smoke marijuana and offered to take a drug test to prove it. However, no such test exists. Moreover, since Carroll was a DRE, there was no need for a drug test because, to put it simply, he is considered the drug test. Ebner was then arrested, charged with DUI, taken to jail, and given a blood test.

The following conversation was recorded:

Katelyn Ebner: “Sir, I can promise you, I have never — please — I have never smoked marijuana.”
Officer Carroll: “Okay. Well, ma’am, you’re giving me indicators — several, several indicators — that you have, okay?”
Katelyn Ebner: “Okay, so when I do a drug test, I’ll be free to go, correct?”
Officer Carroll: “You’re going to jail, ma’am. Okay? I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now.”

Ebner’s blood tests ultimately came back clean, and charges against her were eventually dropped.

Ebner is now one of three plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit who were all pulled over by Carroll for failing to maintain their lane of traffic and then all deemed to be under the influence of marijuana by Carroll. All of them were then immediately arrested and spent a night in jail. In every case, the DUI charges were eventually dropped after blood tests showed no trace of marijuana in the citizens’ blood.

Goals of the Lawsuit

The ACLU of Georgia, representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, claim that Officer Carroll used a “watered-down version” of the 12-step protocol utilized by DREs. They note that “Carroll’s pattern and practice of enforcing DUI-drug infractions…was to arrest an individual based on nothing more than a hunch[.]” Furthermore, they claim that the protocol itself is flawed based on discredited studies and because it irresponsibly entrusts police officers with performing what are essentially scientific and medical tests.

Importantly, the lawsuit also asserts that all the plaintiffs felt they had no choice but to submit to drug tests, especially after Carroll told them that state law required them to do so and that their driver’s licenses would be suspended if they refused, therefore their consent to the tests was not genuine. Additionally, since there was no warrant, the blood tests given to them violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. New Jersey law only requires a person to supply a breath test, which cannot test for any substance other than alcohol.

If the lawsuit is successful, it could call into question stops and arrests like this that are made across the country every day, and could result in new standards for when a police officer is permitted to arrest a driver based on the suspicion of driving while high. Until that time, however, there are still many ways to challenge an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in New Jersey. If you or someone you know is ever arrested or charged with DUI or DWI, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A good lawyer will be able to review the circumstances of your case and determine if the police officers acted appropriately, including whether he or she had probable cause to subject you to a drug test in the first place.

New Jersey DUI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Explain and Fight for Your Rights

Because defending against charges of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be very complicated, it is important to get an experienced DUI/DWI attorney in any situation where you or someone you know is charged. If you are charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in New Jersey, an experienced DWI/DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.