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Are Field Sobriety Tests Administered In Drug Related DUI Cases?


Regular field sobriety tests are administered in drug related DUI cases. These include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk and Turn test, and the One Leg Stand test. They may also do some others test that are easy to do in the field, like taking a person’s pulse. By conducting these tests in the field, they will have a baseline against which to compare tests that are done later on at the station in a more controlled environment.

How Do Police Officers Test For Drugs In A Person’s System?

Most police officers will test for drugs in a person’s system, but it depends on which county we’re dealing with. They will determine the active and inactive number of a drug. Unfortunately, marijuana is very hard to pinpoint the number on. Some states have per se numbers, which in my opinion, is completely wrong to do. This is because someone could have over a certain level of drug in their system based on use from days before, especially if they are a chronic user. Because of the way that it is stored and the way it releases into the body, it can be stored for quite some time, released later, and look active yet not be impairing them.

The officers are supposed to be targeting people who’ve made bad judgments and have decided to drive while impaired. A lot of medical marijuana users who live in states with these per se laws cannot (with any level of comfort) get in their care and drive, because if they have smoked in the past days or weeks, then they are potentially subjecting themselves to a DUI arrest. If someone smoked the night before and they’re driving the next day, they’re going to be perfectly fine to drive, yet the laws in some of these states say they are not okay to drive. That’s a problem, because they are going after people who are not endangering others on the road. They are going after the people who are using a safer, more natural substance to treat themselves. These people are being prosecuted because some of these lawmakers just don’t get it.

How Are The Refusals For Blood Tests Handled In California?

Someone needs to do a chemical test. If the officer suspects drugs, then they can say that they want the driver to submit to a blood test. If they refuse it, they’re read the same admonition that someone who is refusing an alcohol test is read, and they will be in jeopardy of losing their license for a year or more.

How Reliable Are Blood Test Results In a Drug Related DUI Case?

In the Bay Area where I practice, most counties use drug tests that merely reveal the presence of a certain drug rather than a quantitative number relating to its presence. But even quantitative tests don’t prove that the person’s impaired. It comes down to a battle of the experts. The prosecution expert will use the quantitative drug test, as well any observed bad driving behaviors in order to make the case that a person was impaired.

The defense expert will usually argue that everybody is different and that everybody has different levels of tolerance, which is something that is very hard to tell. The defense attorney is trying to show that there is reasonable doubt as to impairment, which is an argument that is made over and over. Beyond reasonable doubt is a very, very high level of proof. In fact, it is the highest level of proof in any legal system in the world. We’re lucky that we have that level because it should take beyond a reasonable doubt for someone to be convicted.

Jurors often hear differing expert opinions from equally qualified experts. When you have that type of testimony coming in, the jurors are supposed to find the defendant not guilty because beyond a reasonable doubt is too high of a standard. The jurors can’t just say, “Oh, I believe this expert more than the other because it’s the prosecution and because the cop agreed.” When jurors are hearing equal testimony from both sides regarding the driver’s impairment, they have to look at everything. If the driving is just horrible and there’s no other explanation for it (and sometimes we have video), then that can help a juror make that decision.

If, on the other hand, someone was just speeding or crossed over the line once or twice, then it will be a tougher decision for the jurors. This is because people drive erratically for all different reasons, and people speed all the time. If you were to use speeding as evidence of impairment, then you may as well say that everyone who speeds while driving must be impaired. You need more than that. You need to look at so many different things. We’re getting a lot more video these days, which can be very helpful for jurors to make these decisions. Without other evidence, all you have to go on is the one expert against the other. Cases that lack solid evidence of impairment should always be resolved in a not guilty verdict.

For more information on Sobriety Tests In Drug Related DUI Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 523-7878 today.

Aaron Bortel

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