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Proving impairment tricky in DUID case

Colorado is currently experiencing a major quandary involving driving while under the influence of drugs cases. Specifically, it is difficult for officials to determine the point at which one motorist may be deemed to be DUID after consuming marijuana. The courts in Colorado are seeing a rising number of cases where laboratory tests and a person's actual impairment do not match up.

After discussing the issue, lawmakers have decided on the limit of 5 nanograms of THC per 1 milliliter of blood, although those who test above this limit may attempt to prove that they were not actually impaired when they were pulled over and arrested for DUID. As a result, several drivers who have faced DWAI, DUID or DUI charges for pot-related impairment have had their criminal charges reduced. In some cases, their charges were dropped completely.

Even though a direct correlation exists between blood alcohol content and one's impairment, the situation is not as direct with the THC found in pot. Individuals who do not smoke pot very often may have extremely high THC levels in the blood immediately after they smoke it. However, a couple of hours later, their levels will be much lower, possibly under 5 nanograms, but they could still technically be impaired. Thus, whether a person is truly driving under the influence does not necessarily have to do with the THC levels; rather, it has to do with whether authorities can prove the person's impairment or not.

Those in Colorado who are charged with DUID have the right to fight the charges and defend their innocence. The criminal defense may scrutinize the evidence that prosecutors present to support the charges and challenge its validity on legal and/or factual grounds. The burden is squarely on the prosecution to prove DUID charges beyond a reasonable doubt by evidence that meets the stringent requirements of our criminal justice system. Failing that, no conviction can occur.

Source: westword.com, "Driving While Stoned Cases Are a Hazy Area of the Colorado Law", Thomas Mitchell, March 8, 2016

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