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Is Chemical Testing For THC As Reliable As Testing For BAC In A DUI Case?

Chemical testing for THC is not as reliable as testing for BAC in a DUI case because there is no per se number. If there ever is a per se number, it should not be used, especially if it’s a low number. If it’s a really, really high number that indicates recent ingestion, then it may be helpful.

The other issue is the integrity of samples. If the blood taken for a THC blood test is not refrigerated, then the THC is more likely to breakdown over time and not show as THC. Alcohol is more likely to remain and show up. We see this all the time in the San Francisco Bay Area, Marin County, Napa county and Sonoma County where they use the Department of Justice in Sonoma County and Santa Rosa to test blood samples.

If the DA gets a result that is close to or just below the legal limit, then they might send it out for additional testing. That additional testing is often done in Sacramento, and could take several months, at which point the test wouldn’t yield as accurate of results as it would have closer to the time of drawing the blood. So, it just lengthens these cases and it’s not as reliable for many different reasons.

It is important to remember that there are active and inactive ingredients in THC. People can often be misled by the inactive ingredients and not understand what they mean. In addition, people can get prosecuted for just having the inactive ingredients in their system. In some states, it doesn’t matter if it’s active or inactive; they just look at how many nanograms there are. It’s dangerous to do that.

How Do Police Officers Determine Whether Or Not A Driver Is Impaired By Marijuana?

In order to determine whether or not a driver is impaired by marijuana, the first thing that an officer needs to do is pull someone over. They may be responding to an accident or a 911 call. First and foremost, officers are trying to detect the odor of marijuana. The stronger the smell, the more likely it is that the person smoked recently. However, if there is someone else in the car, then that person could have been smoking it. They will ask a lot of questions, including whether or not the driver has been smoking, and if so, how much and when. They may perform balancing test examinations, check vital signs, or check pupil signs in a dark room if the drug recognition expert testing is being done.

An officer does not need a lot to arrest someone for impaired driving. If it’s clear that they don’t have the odor of an alcoholic beverage and they do a preliminary alcohol screening test and they’re well below the legal limit (or have no alcohol in their system), then the officer may be convinced that they are under the influence of marijuana.

There’s no specific science or study that can pointed to in the determination of someone’s intoxication or lack thereof by marijuana. I often see videos of my clients performing the field sobriety tests after being suspected for marijuana impairment and they don’t appear to be impaired at all. So, some officers may just be going by the odor or admission of having smoked marijuana. It is tough to determine.

Field sobriety tests are designed to make people fail. Many people don’t know the rules of the tests or are not properly instructed on how to perform the tests. There are divided attention tests in which the officers are trained to only identify what a person does wrong. They do not acknowledge what a person does correctly. A lot of people get nervous when they have been pulled over, or perhaps they were just involved in an accident. If that’s the case, then these tests are not necessarily going to tell us whether or not someone is impaired by any substance.

For more information on Chemical Testing For THC, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 523-7878 today.

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Aaron Bortel
With 30 years of specialized experience in DUI defense, Attorney Aaron Bortel is a dedicated advocate for those facing DUI charges in the Bay Area. Committed to helping clients avoid jail, save their driver’s licenses and jobs, and prevent permanent criminal records, he combines deep legal expertise with genuine care for his client's welfare. Trust in a lawyer who not only defends but truly supports you through challenging times.

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