The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported this week that marijuana use is becoming increasingly more common. The February 6, 2015 paper reports The February 6, 2015 paper reports that nighttime drivers with some drug in their system increased from 16.3% in 2007 to 20% in 2014. These numbers reflect “some” drug being detected. These numbers do not establish any proportion of these people were DWI/DUI or that the drugs detected were even capable of causing impairment.
The government focused on drivers testing positive for marijuana use. The paper says in 2007 only 8.6% of drivers tested positive for THC, but in 2014 12.6% of drivers tested positive for pot metabolites. In predictable fashion, NHTSA characterized the 4% change as a “48% increase.” Look for these misleading numbers in law enforcement propaganda designed to motivate police officers to make more drug-based DUI arrests.
The paper did not provide control data to account for the fact that marijuana use has been decriminalized in some jurisdictions. The number of people who have used marijuana at some point earlier in the day is going to be naturally inflated in these areas- completely lawfully. These increases give rise to no inference that DUI has actually increased or that public safety has been affected whatsoever.
Drug and medication-related DWI/DUI arrests pose a particular challenge for DWI officers. There are no simple tests or even laboratory tests that can reliably distinguish between drug-impaired drivers and people who have taken drugs or medication but still have normal use of their faculties. These cases are also a challenge for courts and defense lawyers who are not adequately trained in DUI defense. Many police officers go to special seminars sponsored by their departments to learn how to present themselves in court as “experts” in detecting drug influence. This false science results in potentially innocent patients with legitimate medical concerns being possibly convicted of DUI when they were not impaired.
Medication and drug-related DUI/ DWI charges require a specialized defense lawyer to protect drivers from being subjected to a witch trial. Don’t let false statistics from NHTSA lead to the conviction of an innocent person.