18 May Police to Use Breath Tests to Detect Marijuana?
Law enforcement may just be pushing for breath tests to detect marijuana to curb the influx of impaired drivers from neighboring states where the drug is legal.
Marijuana Use From Another State
Often times, officers stop vehicles with out of state plates where marijuana has been legalized to ask the driver about using marijuana. Unfortunately, most drivers freely admit to smoking marijuana thinking there is no big deal since it’s legal in their home state or they have a valid prescription to use marijuana for medical purposes.
After the arrest, the officer will request the driver to give a blood or urine sample that will detect prior marijuana use.
Utah’s Law for Driving Under Influence of Marijuana
Utah has a unique law called DRIVING WITH A MEASURABLE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES (DMCS). Six other states have a similar law. Under this law, Utah Code section 41-6a-517, “a person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state if the person has any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person’s body.”
The DMCS statute criminalizes driving a vehicle with any traces of illegal drugs in the body even if the driver is not impaired. This means people who legally smoke marijuana, in states like Colorado or Washington, and later drive a vehicle in Utah can be arrested for having traces of the marijuana in their system. In fact, marijuana can be detected in the blood for weeks after use.
Consequences of Driving & Marijuana Use
The consequences of being charged under the DMCS are similar to those of an alcohol DUI. A person convicted of driving with a measurable controlled substance may be required to serve jail time, perform community service, or other penalties.
The officer does not have to prove the driver was impaired by marijuana to meet the legal requirements to convict someone under DMCS law. All they have to do is expose traces of illegal drugs in the driver’s system.
Police agencies will likely adopt the new technology of marijuana breath testing in the near future. Being able to quickly test a driver’s breath for marijuana use will lead to more arrests under Utah’s DCMS statute.
It is feared that some officers will abuse the new technology though, by requesting or forcing drivers to submit to the breathalyzer test based only on a hunch from suspected previous marijuana use and not because of driving impairment.
What You Should Do If Caught
So, if ever asked about drug use by an officer during a traffic stop, invoke your right to remain silent and advise the officer politely that you do not wish to answer any questions without first speaking to an attorney. If you have already experienced such an arrest or citation, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately.