Throughout the country, marijuana is regularly starting to be legalized. Resultantly, marijuana use has become more common. In the United States, it is estimated that around 22 million people use marijuana. Moreover, the public’s perception of the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana appear to be declining. A recent survey conducted in Colorado found that 40 percent of recreational users and 34 percent of medical marijuana users believed that the drug did not affect their ability to operate a vehicle.
Despite public perception that it is safe, driving while under the influence of marijuana still poses serious risks. Studies have found that marijuana can slow reaction time, impair cognitive performance, and diminish ability to focus. Therefore, driving while under the
influence of marijuana should be avoided.
The challenge that law enforcement faces is that there is still not a reliable test to instantly determine whether someone is under the influence. One of the most common ways to test for marijuana is by testing a person’s blood. Unfortunately, because marijuana remains in a users’ blood for up to 30 days after use, there is little correlation between the measurable level of marijuana in one’s blood and level of impairment.
Per se statutes
Many states have adopted per se or zero tolerance statues in order to deal with drug-impaired driving. Per se laws set a limit as to what level of drugs in one’s body is permissible when operating a vehicle. Under these statutes, the only thing necessary to convict is evidence that there are drugs in the body, meaning it is possible to convict someone whose driving was not impaired. 17 states have adopted per se statutes, though Oregon is not one of them.
In Oregon and other non-per se states, trained police officers, referred to as drug recognition evaluators, are tasked with evaluating whether a driver is actually under the influence. Their testimony will then be used in conjunction with any other facts and toxicology results in order to get a conviction.
Resultantly, evidence that a driver had marijuana in his system is not conclusive. Rather, it may be possible to contest a DUI charge in non-per se states, especially if there is limited evidence of impairment. An experienced criminal attorney will be able to help you navigate the law and fight an unsound conviction. If already convicted, you obtain post-conviction relief.