DiLorenzo & Rush | Counselors of Law
Stepping Up & Standing Out

Drugged driving is not as easy to identify as drunk driving

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense

With recreational marijuana use now legal in an increasing number of states, including New York, access to legal marijuana is available to more in New Jersey and New York who choose to purchase the drug.

However, if you choose to drive to purchase marijuana and then use it while in New Jersey or New York, you should note that drugged driving is illegal across the nation.

Not unlike drunk driving, marijuana use can impair a motorist’s faculties, making driving dangerous. For these reasons, police will pull over drivers who they believe are driving under the influence of marijuana.

Roadside field sobriety tests and chemical tests are used to identify drunk drivers. But how do police determine whether a motorist is too impaired by marijuana to drive?

How do officers test for marijuana impairment?

Some police departments have drug recognition experts (DRE). If the officer pulls over a motorist on suspicion of marijuana impairment, the DRE will be called in to perform a roadside test.

If a DRE suspects marijuana impairment, the motorist may be sent to the police station for further testing. Some DREs believe that further testing can identify marijuana impairment, even without the use of chemical tests.

Marijuana and chemical tests

Roadside breath tests cannot identify marijuana in the bloodstream the way they can identify alcohol in the bloodstream. So, they are ineffective in identifying marijuana impairment.

Even a blood test performed at the police station cannot always identify marijuana impairment.

The amount of marijuana in a person’s system can affect each person very differently. Some people with minimal amounts of marijuana in their system can be impaired while others with the same amount of marijuana in their system would not be impaired.

Furthermore, marijuana can remain in a person’s blood long after the drug has been consumed and any impairment has worn off.

For these reasons, blood tests are often ineffective in determining whether a motorist is currently impaired by marijuana.

So, if you are pulled over on suspicion of drugged driving, and a non-DRE officer attempts to perform a field sobriety test or takes you to the station for a blood test, note that these efforts can be called into question should you be arrested for drugged driving.

Even a DRE’s test is not infallible. Not all motorists are dangerously impaired just because they used small amounts of marijuana, especially if the use occurred hours or days earlier.

Knowing what tests are reliable and what tests are not reliable is the first step in developing a defense strategy should you be wrongfully arrested and charged with drugged driving due to alleged marijuana intoxication.