DUI Arrest for Marijuana – Active vs Inactive Metabolites

UPDATE: Virginia decriminalized simple possession of marijuana on July 1, 2020. Click here for details.

Guest post from The Law Offices of David Michael Cantor. David and his team are very experienced in defending clients accused of DUI Drugs in Arizona and Marijuana Possession in Arizona.

Many people may hold a misconception about the meaning of a DUI. A DUI is most commonly associated with drinking alcohol. However, the literal definition of a DUI is an individual caught “Driving Under the Influence.” This refers to other substances as well, including pharmaceutical drugs, narcotics, and cannabis. Cannabis, also known as pot and marijuana, can also cause individuals to be pulled over due to a suspicion of driving while under the influence. This is primarily because of Marijuana’s status as a illegal due to federal law (although some states have legalized it independently) and its nature as a hallucinogen. Its hallucinogenic properties can interfere with driving safety. However, one can’t simply be arrested for a DUI due to erratic driving or bloodshot eyes. There are a series of procedures that need to be followed before one is officially arrested for DUI.

Field Sobriety Tests:

First and foremost, many officers will elect to pull the suspect over and perform a field sobriety test. These are fairly common but aren’t truly routine for drivers suspected of a drug DUI. The issue is that there isn’t an actual standard for people to be tested by. It often comes down to the officer’s best judgment. Many of the field sobriety tests are commonly known. They include the infamous straight line test, reciting the alphabet backwards, balance tests, etc. Many of these have been contested in courts as being unjust. In fact, only a few remain apart from tests labeled as “designed to fail.”

Blood and Urine Samples:

After the field sobriety tests are complete, if the officer feels it’s necessary, they will take the suspect in for testing at the station. Unfortunately, the testing for cannabis isn’t as simple as it is for drinking. A breathalyzer isn’t going to work. Instead, blood and urine samples are taken and analyzed to determine the level of intoxication. Unfortunately, this again runs into complications.

The issue comes from the metabolites in the bloodstream. Metabolites are the remnants of metabolized compounds. The issue comes from determining which of these are active and which are not. Inactive means that they are no longer causing any ill effect on the physiology. Active means that they are still interacting. Each body reacts to different degrees. There is no definite measure of intoxication. So, again, the presence of metabolites in the blood is part of a subjective experience. Some states have legal limits to the number of metabolites in the blood. Others, the very presence is damning enough. It is after this series of events, that the suspect can be officially charged with DUI.

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