Recently in Florida, lives were tragically and forever altered in a matter of seconds.
A teen driver with a car load of friends on their way to the beach made an ill-fated U-turn, apparently without appropriate caution. A motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction was in his path. The two collided. The 65-year-old motorcycle operator was killed on the scene. The teen, a preparatory school student who had held his license less than a year, was suddenly facing decades behind bars for DUI manslaughter. According to his friends, the group had shared a marijuana joint just before the wreck. A blood test confirmed the presence of the drug in his system.
Still, our Jefferson County DUI defense lawyers aren’t entirely convinced that prosecutors will be able to prove marijuana played a significant role in the crash. We are inclined to believe that inexperience, rather than marijuana intoxication, may have been the bigger issue.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that males between the ages of 15 and 20 are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than any other age group or cohort, and that the presence of other teen passengers further heightens this risk. The biggest factor in these crashes? Inexperience.
Even for someone who is underage, the consumption of alcohol or drugs does not necessarily prove that one was intoxicated or impaired to the point of unsafe vehicle operation.
With alcohol, the question of how intoxicated a person has become can generally be answered in a fairly straightforward answer through a blood test. This is one of the most accurate ways of determining intoxication for alcohol because of the way in which alcohol is processed by the body. It filters through the blood stream at a very rapid rate. This means that if alcohol is detected in your system via a blood test, there is a high likelihood that you consumed alcohol recently. If it is found in high levels, then it’s likely you consumed a large amount of it fairly recently.
Drugs are different – especially marijuana. THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, is processed by the human body at a much slower pace. This means that just because the drug is detected in your system does not mean that you are intoxicated or that consumption was recent. Even when the drug is found to be at elevated levels, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were intoxicated at the time your blood was drawn. It could mean you are a regular user of the substance, but it doesn’t prove intoxication.
What may be more damaging for the defense of this Florida teen is the testimony from his friends that they had smoked a joint just prior to the crash. But there again, consumption of an illegal substance doesn’t necessarily prove impairment. Exactly how much of it did the driver smoke, as compared to his passengers, and what was the true level of his impairment? That may ultimately be a tough question for prosecutors to answer.
Police: Teen high on marijuana when he hit, killed motorcyclist, Aug. 22, 2013, By Brittany Shammas, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Report: Diabetic Shock Mistaken for DUI by Police, Aug. 3, 2013, Jefferson County DUI Lawyer Blog