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Tests for driver’s THC levels are not always accurate

Earlier this fall, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Loss and Prevention reported that the number of motor vehicle accidents has increased in states that legalized the recreational use of marijuana. The institute determined its findings by comparing car accidents, police reports and insurance claims in four states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and four neighboring states that have not.

According to the report, there was between a 5 and 6 percent increase in car accidents in the states that were studied, including Colorado. As a result, Colorado law enforcement is taking a strict stance on drugged driving.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CODOT), Colorado law enforcement officers can charge drivers with driving under the influence if they have five nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood. THC is the principle chemical ingredient in marijuana. However, the CODOT admits that there is no accurate device to measure a driver’s THC levels.

As a result, Colorado law allows police officers who are trained “drug recognition experts” to base their arrests on physical signs of impairment. Common physical signs of impairment might include:

  • Bloodshot or droopy eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Marijuana odor
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Delayed motor skills

Not only does the institute acknowledge that testing drivers for THC levels is difficult to do, but it also admitted that the presence of THC does “not necessarily mean they were impaired during activities like driving.” While the law requires active THC levels to charge a driver with a drugged driving DUI, the THC in a person’s system might be from several days prior.

Driving under the influence is extremely dangerous. However, because of increased patrols to prevent drugged driving and lack of accurate testing measures, drivers can be wrongfully charged for a crime they did not commit. If you recently received a DUI charge, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.

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