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Massachusetts Police Worry about Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Across the United States, state and local governments seem to moving toward the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. One concern of the police and others against legalization is that there would be a corresponding increase in the number of people driving under the influence of marijuana.

dutch-weed-2-jpg-1206038-m.jpgAccording to a recent article in the Worchester Telegram, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and its membership share these concerns. One major issue is that, unlike drunk driving, driving under the influence of marijuana is much more difficult to prove.

Field sobriety tests are designed to detect drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed the three standardized tests now approved for use in DWI and DUI detection, but these tests are not effective for drivers suspected of being on drugs.

There is a certification called a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) that an officer can obtain, but that requires extensive training and education. There are only a few officers across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that are DRE qualified. Drug testing can also be a problem, because the active chemical in marijuana (THC) does not generally show up on a drug test. Rather, it is a metabolite of THC that stays in the system for weeks or longer.

This is fine if you are trying to see if a person has recently smoked marijuana, but it does not prove that the person was intoxicated at the time of driving. However, as our Boston drunk driving crash attorneys can explain, there is a different standard of proof in civil negligence cases than there is for a criminal prosecution.

In a civil car accident case, the plaintiff’s attorney does not need to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, but, rather, by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, if plaintiff’s attorney can prove to the jury that it is more probable than not that the person who caused the accident was under the influence of drugs, then plaintiff may be entitled to a full and appropriate financial recovery, even if there was not evidence to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court, such as the Boston Municipal Court, for operating under the influence (OUI).

In a civil case, evidence like the smell of burnt marijuana, the manner in which defendant was driving, and behavior and appearance of defendant may be enough to win a car accident lawsuit involving a driver under the influence of marijuana.

While the facts of every case are different, and you should speak with a car accident lawyer about the facts of your particular situation, the responding officer’s testimony may be far more useful in the civil case than it was in the criminal case.

One of the reasons for this different standard is that the law is quicker to provide a remedy to victims injured in a car accident caused by a driver on drugs than it is to convict someone of a crime. This is important, because driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can both lead to serious car accidents.

According to NHTSA, marijuana slows down a driver’s response time and the ability to perform complex tasks and calculations necessary to drive a car safely.

If you have been injured in a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Green light for grass? Police fear increase in DUI-marijuana with liberalization, September 7, 2014, Worchester Telegram
More Blog Entries:

Alleged Drunk Driver Crashes into Saugus, Massachusetts Home, Aug. 21, 2014, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog