DUI Involving Marijuana, Cocaine or Pills
While the majority of DUI cases involve alcohol, the number of DUI cases involving drivers that are alleged to have other drugs such as pills or marijuana in their system is constantly growing. Part of this is better detection methods and part is the increased use of prescription medicines. Often times people think that since an officer can’t smell alcohol, then they don’t have the right to arrest you; in some cases, that can be an issue, to raise at a later hearing, but officers will often “find” a reason to arrest you even if they don’t smell the odor of alcohol.
One of the key factors when dealing with a DUI that does not involve alcohol is that in almost every case, the police a required to continue their DUI investigation only with a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Not every officer has DRE qualifications and in fact the majority of police officers do NOT. That means if a regular DUI officer is asking you to take a breath test and you blow 0.00, they do NOT have the right to ask for a urine test. The police can arrest you only if they suspect you have been driving while impaired by alcohol OR by controlled substances. It is routine for officers to ask for urine after a low breath test, because they figure something must be wrong with this driver in order to justify their arrest. Fact is, they can not do this unless they are DRE. (One important caveat is that if you admit to any officer that you have been taking pills or smoking marijuana, then your own statement can give them probable cause, so ALWAYS EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT). If they are not a DRE and do not take the steps to determine intoxication by drugs, then they do not have the right to ask for a urine test after a breath test. That means that if you took a urine test by a non-DRE police officer, I have been successful in getting the positive urine test suppressed because the police did not properly do their job. One great example of how I can get evidence excluded is a recent case where the accused was charged with 5 counts of DUI Manslaughter and the charge could not stand because the validity of the drug and alcohol tests were called into question. Therefore, the prosecution could only charge the person with a "simple" DUI, saving this person many decades in prison from this overzealous prosecution.
Being accused of Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana is often a common arrest scenario. My office has successfully fought these types of cases, because the officer often does not do their job correctly when investigating these cases. In almost every DUI, whether it be alcohol, pills, marijuana, etc., the officer will always put in his report that a person has bloodshot and watery eyes. So while this is an indicator of marijuana, I have argued that how can it be an indicator in every case that each DUI officer investigates, which would be impossible and thus diminishing the credibility of that officer. The important thing about marijuana is that even if you did not smoke or ingest marijuana or hashish, the drug stays in your system long past the time the effects of the drug wear off. As a general rule, marijuana can be stored in the body (technically it is stored in the body’s fat cells) for 30 days. Heavy smokers/ingesters will actually retain it longer and casual or rare use may have it diminish in the system within a couple weeks. Due to this fact, even if you test positive and it is done correctly by using a DRE, then it is hard for the state to prove that you were under the influence of marijuana AT THE TIME OF DRIVING. In other words, the state needs more than just proving you had marijuana in your system but they had to prove you were under the influence at the moment they stopped you. This same rule applies to cocaine use in that cocaine metabolites only stay in the system for 2-4 days. Therefore, a false positive often occurs after a urine test showing positive cocaine results which again my office will aggressively fight for you.
One myth involving DUI with prescription pills is often people think that if you have a prescription, then it is legal to drive. It is only legal to drive if the prescription does not affect your normal faculties and ability to drive is not impaired. So, for example, even if you are fortunate enough to have a Vicadin, Xanax, Oxycontin pill bottle present, it is not enough to let you go free and in fact may add to the probable cause. That said, the police normally would still have the requirement of having a DRE do the investigation not just a regular DUI investigating officer. Pills, whether prescribed to you or not, are subject to scientific properties that require that any DUI involving pills be investigated by a qualified DRE. The effects of pills vary and the metabolites (the properties in the drug which estimate the time in your system) will vary from drug to drug. Furthermore, while an officer can say he saw several signs of impairment such as lethargy, failing Field Sobriety Tests (FST), slurred speech, etc., these are common among people who are not impaired, and the weakness of the state’s DUI case is shown to a jury who sees through the state’s attempts at gaining a wrongful conviction. My office is prepared to go to trial if necessary and force the state to hold them to their burden of proving you were actually driving while under the influence to the extent your normal faculties are impaired, and make them prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. If they can’t, then you are presumed not guilty.
My office has a lot of experience fighting these cases in Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties, among others. I know what issues are important in getting a case dismissed, or even in showing the weaknesses in the state’s case. I have been able to negotiate lesser sentences so as not to have a DUI on your record. When you are charged with a DUI that involves Prescription pills, marijuana, cocaine, or any other controlled substance, my office will aggressively fight to make sure that you are not convicted of a charge that police often think are easy to prove, but in reality can be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt after our office exposes the mistakes that are often made in DUI drug investigations. Call my office and we can discuss the options and best way to fight the charge that you are being accused.