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Florida’s Expensive “Drive Baked, Get Busted” Campaign Highlights Issues with Identifying and Prosecuting Drivers Impaired By Marijuana

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The state of Florida’s recent efforts to put up “Drive Baked, Get Busted” billboards, posters, and radio and video ads have reportedly cost the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles approximately $3.2 million. However, the campaign  also highlights a very important gap in knowledge that the state suffers from when it comes to recognizing whether someone is actually driving under the influence of marijuana.

Not only has the state of Florida never actually tracked how many marijuana-related crashes there have been—and thus whether it’s an actual public safety issue—but there is also a significant problem with law enforcement trying to detect whether someone is driving while under the influence of marijuana. In fact, many are calling this expensive campaign more of an attack on medicinal marijuana users versus an actual education/public safety campaign.

Florida’s Current Statistics Involve Presumptions

Here is what the state of Florida does know—in 2016, 671 people were killed in Florida due to impaired drivers, where:

  • 42 percent were killed by drivers under the influence of alcohol;
  • 31 percent were killed by drivers impaired by drugs (what type of drug, however, the state does not know); and
  • 27 percent were killed by those presumed to be both drunk and high.

Identifying Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Still Very Subjective

And yet, no roadside test—or technology—can actually prove that a driver is impaired by marijuana. According to some officers who have been interviewed, they simply make a subjective judgment because “it’s obvious from the get-go.” Those same officers have said that the first sign they look for in deciding whether or not to pull someone over is the “struggling to multitask” (weaving in and out of lanes, going too fast or too slow, etc.). Once someone has been pulled over, officers reportedly look for any bloodshot, diluted, or watery eyes, fluttering eyelids, an inability to cross their eyes, sluggish reactions, slurred speech and/or the smell of burnt marijuana. However, many of these signs are also present in alcohol impairment.

Fighting Claims of Driving Under Influence of Marijuana

In Florida, drivers can refuse to do field sobriety exercises or physical tests without penalty. However, if a driver refuses to submit to a Breathalyzer and a blood or urine test, they risk a one-year license suspension.

While the .08 percent blood-alcohol level is a fairly cut-and-dry standard across the board, things get more complicated when it comes to marijuana: While tests can detect THC in blood and urine, it can also stay in their system for days, weeks, or months, making these test results relatively challengeable in criminal defense cases.

Experienced Florida DUI Criminal Defense Attorneys

In order for law enforcement to actually prove impairment, an officer must first be trained as a drug recognition expert, and use a very specific 12-step process to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana. They then present that testimony in court.

If you have been unfairly accused of driving under the influence of marijuana, contact our experienced Florida DUI criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.

Resource:

tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/Is-Florida-s-effort-to-stop-marijuana-impaired-drivers-half-baked-_169300451

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