Over the past several decades, DUI laws across the country have been strengthened, and law enforcement efforts have been targeted and expanded. These efforts have significantly reduced the incidents of drunk driving. Unfortunately, drugged driving laws have not received the same thorough treatment as drunk driving laws. This has lead to ambiguities in the law which prevent some defendants from receiving a fair trial.
Defendants facing DUI-marijuana charges in Flint, MI have important constitutional rights to due process. Without protecting these rights, the consequences of a DUI conviction can follow a defendant for many years.
Michigan’s Drugged Driving Statute
Operating a vehicle while intoxicated has been made a criminal offense under Section 257.625 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. Intoxication is defined as being under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance. This means that the traditional DUI statute is used by prosecutors to charge both drunk and drugged driving offenses. Unfortunately, Michigan, like other states, has not been able to determine the blood level at which drug impaired driving can be inferred. Unlike alcohol, researchers have not yet been able to confidently assess the point at which humans are likely to be impaired by such drugs.
Why it is Difficult to Get a Fair Trial for DUI-Marijuana Charges
The uncertainty with which drugged driving laws are written makes it difficult for officers to establish probable cause that a driver is impaired by drugs. It also makes it more difficult for prosecutors to both file and prosecute charges of impaired driving, which a jury must generally infer from testimony about the driver’s behavior. Unfortunately, these ambiguities can work to impede a defendant’s constitutional rights. Defendants have the right to confront evidence against them. For an alcohol test, this is a simple matter of obtaining a copy of the lab results, then challenging the procedure or technician or equipment as necessary. For drugged driving, the evidence against a driver is more ambiguous, and this is more difficult to confront. The evidence may simply be an officer’s testimony that the driver was speaking slowly or had red eyes. Refuting these statements with other evidence (such as the driver’s contact lenses causing the red eyes) is not always enough to overcome the jury’s presumption that law enforcement officers always testify accurately.
Medical marijuana also complicates the process of criminal charges for DUI-marijuana. The fact that a defendant possess a medical marijuana card will not prevent him or her from being charged with driving under the influence of drugs. More importantly, the fact that the defendant was in possession of medical marijuana at the time of the offense is admissible evidence at the DUI trial. This evidence has a powerful effect on jurors, and many are unable to separate that evidence from their determination of whether the driver was actually impaired by his or her lawful marijuana at the time of the offense.
For these and many more reasons, it is especially important for defendants to find an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend DUI-drug charges. An experienced Flint DUI attorney will ensure that defendants receive a speedy trial, due process, and all other rights afforded to them by federal and Michigan state law.