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Changing marijuana laws complicate DUI laws

With new laws taking effect in the state and in other areas of the U.S. that legalize marijuana use, there's been confusion and debate about exactly where the lines of legality should be drawn both concerning consumption in general, and the effect of marijuana use on driving.

Police have been exercising a search and seizure provision, which includes having a suspect's blood drawn for evidence. However, if it is found that any of the requirements were not met, the test is not admissible in court. Also, opponents against applying strict DUI marijuana laws argue that impairment shouldn't be judged based on a blood test.

The key requirement is that the officer has reasonable grounds for stopping a driver in the first place. Once an officer is suspicious, the driver is evaluated by a drug recognition expert (DRE). From here it is a driver's sobriety that is looked at, which may not necessarily align with their level of impairment. New marijuana users can show signs of impairment after very little exposure, while those who have more experience might remain capable with a higher level of the substance.

Accuracy of the actual test is also a concern. Marijuana is different from alcohol as it stays in the bloodstream for much longer, so there might be evidence of use, but it may have occurred long before the person ever got behind the wheel. 

Gaining a new right means that a new responsibility is in order as well. As with any new law, it can be difficult for the average person to sort out what is and isn't legal. With the drug laws in Colorado, our criminal defense attorneys can help clients navigate their way through a confusing situation.

Source: The Daily, "Hashing it out," Deanna Isaacs, Jan. 16, 2013

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