If you thought drunken driving was only for motorists caught while operating under the influence of beer, wine or hard liquor, you may want to take a step back and consider the growing number of headlines talking about drug DUI. Being arrested for driving while intoxicated used to mean an alcohol-related DWI, but with the increasing use of prescription medications and illegal drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, police nationwide are seeing more and more drug-related DUIs than ever before.
As a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer, I and my staff understand the finer points of the law pertaining to drunk driving, breath test refusal and underage drinking offenses. Whether you live in Ocean, Monmouth or Middlesex County, there is always a possibility that you or a family member could be pulled over for drunk driving. And while alcohol used to be known as the drug of choice, weed or cannabis has apparently been waiting in the wings to make its debut.
According to a news story not long ago, courts and law enforcement agencies around the country are cracking down on drivers who allegedly operate their cars and truck under the influence of marijuana. In what it calls a growing problem, marijuana DUI may become as large a problem for police departments across the nation as alcohol-related drunken driving once was.
In fact, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) earlier this year indicates the number of pot-related traffic accidents has been increasing annually since 2005.
And although the total number of traffic fatalities involving alcohol is still higher, the “rate” of increase for drug-related accidents is greater than that of alcohol. As one expert put it, people are so used to hearing the term “driving under the influence” and associating it with alcohol-related offenses that they forget DUI also applies to situations where a number of substances may have caused a state of intoxication in a driver. And lest we forget, here in New Jersey we have a law against drowsy driving.
As it stands, “smoking and driving” presents a problem for law enforcement, not the least of which is how to measure the level of impairment. This is because some substances remain in a person’s system days or weeks after the intoxicating effect of that drug has worn off. This is true of THC, one of the main ingredients of marijuana.
As one person was quoted in the article, it certainly is absurd to test an individual for marijuana metabolites when the actual use and subsequent intoxication may have occurred weeks ago. This is an important point, since people should not be charged with a DUI based on something they may have done at home days or weeks prior to the traffic stop. The article goes on to say that it’s better to test a driver for actual impairment as opposed to the quantity of a chemical present in the body.
Driving under influence of marijuana a growing problem, Missoulian.com, January 16, 2011