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What Training Do Police Officers Have Regarding Marijuana DUIs?


The sad part is there is very little training for police officers regarding Marijuana DUIs. Everybody uses the standardized field sobriety tests from alcohol. You can see how backward this all is when you look at what their remedy is, because these days, if you receive a drug based suspension from a DUI, and it is either prescription drugs, marijuana, or anything else, they will install a breathalyzer machine in your car. Well, if you are a pot smoker, and you never drink in your life, what guarantee or safeguard is a breathalyzer going to do in your car if you never did drink. It has nothing to do with drugs, and they do not have a drug detecting interlock system for cars that I am aware of right now.

Maybe someday they will, but they do not. You cannot detect cannabis, or prescription drugs. You need blood, or urine and nobody has come up with one of those where you have to take a blood or urine test before you drive. It would be a little onerous I would think. There are a couple of other tests that law enforcement has not been trained on, I do not have it right in front of me when I pull out my little book, but ninety-nine percent of these officers do not do any specific drug recognition training. If you are in one of these richer municipalities, maybe they have some extra money, and might send you to extra classes for that.

I have witnessed maybe two or three in thirty-six years of doing this, that they have any type of training specific to marijuana, or prescription drug testing. They look for dilation of pupils, which is usually consistent with some drugs, but some people also have smaller pupils. Everybody reacts differently to different conditions. The typical things you are looking for with marijuana, is red glassy and, watery eyes. My eyes have been bloodshot for twenty years that is not because I do drugs every night. I just have what is called Dry Eye Syndrome.

My eyes are constantly watering. Every day I use natural tears, and makes my eyes look red all the time. People get older, your eyes dry out, and this is your body’s defenses to produce more tears, which can make your eyes red, not because you are under the influence of something.” In a typical DUI, they are looking for a slurred speech, but I do not know how much people slur their speech when they are high. I do not have enough people in my life since college, which is smoke POT. I do not mean to say they slur their speech like an intoxicated person, or slur their speech as if someone is doing drugs, or some sort of a sedative type drug, those are people that just look like they are drunk, when they are not.

They are just slow and lethargic. There are officers who are aware of some of those things, but very few of them carry training other than their basics to understand the differences. It is a difficult area of law enforcement, because there are not that many specific drug tests that you can get with someone and say, “His eyes are dilated, therefore you’re on this drug”. You cannot say that beyond a reasonable doubt, just like with a horizontal gaze nystagmus. Guess what, eleven percent of our population has nystagmus even if they are not drinkers.

I always bring that up when they bring up this HGN. There is no way to tell them that these are the people who do or do not know that. So that shows reasonable doubt right there, you just do not know. There are people who have a ton of other indicators, but some common ones like people wet their pants because they have been drinking too much, and cannot hold it, some stuff like that. Going back to the drug recognition, there just is not that much in drug recognition. It is people do not have that standardized reaction to a specific drug; it is not identifiable in court to anybody, let alone to a judge beyond a reasonable doubt.

How Important Is The Timeline In Defending Marijuana DUI Cases?

The timeline is less important in Illinois because they have to have an exact identifiable quantity of marijuana in your blood, nanograms per liter to be exact. Therefore, it does not matter if you smoked five minutes ago, or three weeks ago; it depends on what number shows when you are tested. That is why you do not want to take a test. You do not want to give them anything that is identifiable. You do not want to open your mouth and say, “I smoked yesterday”, or, “Yes, I smoked this morning but I am okay now”. That is the typical response of people who smoke all the time. Not every judge understands that, not every judge smoked POT in his life, and says, “No. He smoked in the morning; he still has to be messed up”.

Again, different laws for different states, the timeline are not important unless you are in Wisconsin. I mean in Wisconsin, you cannot refuse, and you should not. In Illinois, the timeline is not important, but you should be aware if you are to admit, “I am not feeling anything”, if it has been within a month, I would not take the test. We still have not had enough testing results tried in courts. I cannot tell you here is how it really applies in court, how many days back it goes before you will have these types of nanogram amounts in your blood, I just do not know.

It is such a new thing here, and we are waiting to see how it all works out, but obviously, the first thing to do is do not give anybody reason to believe you were smoking. I cannot tell you how many people smoke in their car, and for people that do not smoke pot, but knows what it smells like, if you jump into a car where somebody smoked in the last couple of days, the odor is still going to be there. Do not think because you rolled down the window, that no one is going to know what is really going on in that car.

You can smell pot that has been smoked in a car for a long time. The last thing you want to do is give the officer a reason to say, “Hey you know what, I think you need to take this blood test” because then if you refuse, you will receive a refusal suspension from the secretary of state. You might beat the DUI, but you might lose at the suspension. If you have a prior one within the last five years, guess what, you are not even getting a breath device in your car, you are going to be issued a DUI with possible jail time, and fines.

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Barry Boches, Esq.

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