What does the field sobriety test for marijuana look like?

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Q&A by Schwaner Law Colorado uses Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) to evaluate suspects of driving under the influence of marijuana. They use a 12 step system to evaluate whether someone is operating their vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

If you are pulled over for suspected drugged driving, an officer will test sobriety differently than a suspected drunk driver. A driver under the influence of marijuana drives differently from a driver under the influence of alcohol. Drunk drivers are more likely to drive faster and overestimate their driving skills – the opposite is true of drivers under the influence of marijuana. Many are much more cautious, if not paranoid, and often overcompensate by driving too slow or stopping too long at a stop sign.

Because of the different effects of alcohol versus marijuana impairment, the field sobriety tests for marijuana must be different. An officer currently cannot test marijuana content in the blood with a breathalyzer – THC levels are must be measured by a blood test. A urine test can show a positive result if the driver used marijuana within a few days or weeks of the traffic stop. Though people metabolize THC at different rates, and can vary widely from person to person, Colorado legislature has settled upon a legal limit is 5 or more nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

Roadside Sobriety Testing for Marijuana

Currently, police do not have a breathalyzer test for marijuana impairment. If pulled over, you may be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests conducted by a drug recognition expert. The officer may also immediately arrest you for impaired driving.

Drug Recognition Experts

The state of Colorado uses drug recognition experts to determine whether a person is driving under the influence of marijuana or another drug. A drug recognition expert is a police officer who takes an elective 72-hour course that will train them to determine whether a driver is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, rule out health conditions, and determine what substance the driver is impaired by.

The drug recognition experts follow a 12 step process determined by a standard checklist. These steps have been determined by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. The NHSTA has standardized the process – the tests are conducted in the exact same way every time. A drug recognition expert follows the 12 steps exactly, even if a step is not relevant to indicate level of impairment.

The Standard Twelve Step Process Followed by Drug Recognition Experts:

  • Breathalyzer Test
  • Interview by Officer
  • Preliminary Examination and Pulse
  • Eye Exam
  • Divided Attention Tasks – (i.e. finger to nose)
  • Vital Signs and Pulse
  • Dark Room Examination
  • Muscle Tone
  • Injection Sites and Pulse
  • Interrogation, statements, and other observations
  • Opinion of Evaluator
  • Chemical Examination

Arrested for Marijuana DUI?

If you have been arrested for a DUI involving Marijuana in Colorado, you need an experienced attorney on your side to help you understand your rights, and reduce your penalties. The Law Offices of Christian A. Schwaner, P.C. can help. Contact us today to discuss your case with a free initial consultation.

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