When a driver is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, an officer can utilize field sobriety testing to look for signs of impairment. Separately, a Breathalyzer or blood test may confirm if the amount of alcohol in the person’s system is above New Jersey’s legal limit of .08. In those instances, the person is charged with DUI. The process when someone is suspected of being impaired by marijuana is not so simple. The standard field tests, Breathalyzers and blood tests used to prove alcohol impairment cannot prove marijuana impairment.
The potential legalization of recreational marijuana use in the near future would most certainly increase the number of suspected impaired drivers on New Jersey’s roadways. This presents a challenge to officers as there is currently no way for officers to measure marijuana intoxication. The standard field sobriety tests used for alcohol impairment aren’t effective for suspected marijuana intoxication. Also, the current bill that would legalize marijuana use doesn’t set a legal standard for what is to be considered marijuana impairment.
There is no set level of marijuana in one’s blood that is considered the level that defines impairment, so blood tests can indicate the presence of marijuana but not impairment of the individual. Studies have determined that someone who is high on marijuana will display certain signs indicating his or her impairment. A trained expert would be able to detect these signs and determine the driver’s impairment based on his or her observation. Police departments will have to rely on the testimony of these drug recognition experts for any DUI arrest dealing with marijuana impairment. The problem is that currently there are only 450 drug recognition experts in the state of New Jersey, many jurisdictions don’t even have one and the training for new drug recognition experts is very expensive.
Many thousands of people are arrested every year in New Jersey for suspicion of DUI for drugs or alcohol. Until the state can determine an absolute way of proving a driver’s impairment on marijuana, those facing DUI for marijuana use have a strong reason to fight their charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can analyze the driver’s case and help the driver seek the best outcome for his or her situation.