Ruling Could Doom Ohio Stoned Driving Rules
Stoned driving laws took a hit this week when Arizona ruled that per se limits on marijuana could not be applied.
Ohio has adopted a draconian impairment law that punishes drivers for having a metabolite of marijuana in their system. In effect that means that you are stoned driving if you smoke or ingest marijuana the metabolite “hydroxy-THC” that will remain in your body long after the “high” has dissipated. This means that you may be “impaired” for purposes of the law, but not in any way be impaired by the drug. If you visit Colorado to legally use recreational marijuana and return to Ohio, you are impaired for up to thirty days thereafter. This is an absurd and unjust law that gives too much power to law enforcement and enshrines Ohio’s War on Drugs into law.
With states like Colorado legalizing the sale of marijuana, jurisdictions are scrambling to deal with the consequences. Last month, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled 4 to 1 that draconian laws designed to handle driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol could not be applied directly to pot because of the way the drug interacts with the bloodstream.
The high court justices agreed that the statute’s wording was ambiguous and should be interpreted in a way that does not lead to an absurd result, which is what would happen if prosecutors were allowed to implement a zero-tolerance reading of the law. “This interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect,” Justice Robert M. Brutinel wrote for the majority. “For example, at oral argument the state acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”
The court was uncomfortable criminalizing legal conduct, as Arizona voters legalized medical marijuana use in a 2010 referendum. The majority also noted that certain legal drugs can share a metabolite with an illegal drug, which causes a problem with the drugged driving statute that automatically criminalizes the presence of the metabolite in the bloodstream.”Because Section 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the state to prove that a substance discovered in a driver’s body is actually metabolized from a proscribed drug, the state’s interpretation would permit prosecution if the discovered substance is a metabolite of a proscribed drug even if the proscribed drug was never ingested,” Justice Brutinel wrote. “These results are absurd and make the state’s argument untenable.” The Supreme Court majority declared that the legislature must have meant that any amount of the impairing hydroxy-THC was a criminal act, not the substance that lingers in the bloodstream for thirty days. Source: Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan (Arizona Supreme Court, 4/22/2014) and www.TheNewspaper.com.
The take-away from this decision is that Ohio needs to legalize marijuana so as to avoid massive injustice. Ohio can punish stoned driving without making a de facto zero tolerance law that will do nothing but foster disrespect for the law and the people who enforce it.
Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio. He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671. You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog. You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324. “All I do is DUI defense.”
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