Now that Marijuana DUI’s are a bit more prevalent in Washington these days, a thought for defense attorneys to ponder is the value of field sobriety tests on their non-alcohol related DUI’s. Although not binding, a recent Supreme Court case in Massachusetts has shed some light on how courts are viewing FST’s in marijuana cases. The opinion can be found a Commonwealth v. Gerhardt.
In short, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that although FST may be admissible in marijuana DUI cases, officers are barred from opining impairment based on them and found that the FST’s, alone were not sufficient to prove impairment. The court found that, “[t]he scientific community has yet to reach a consensus on the reliability of FST’s to assess whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana.” The court made some other interesting conclusions too: (1) Police officers may not testify to the administration and results of FST’s as they do in operating under the influence of alcohol prosecutions; and (2) Police Officers may testify to observed physical characteristics of a driver such as blood shot eyes, drowsiness, and lack of coordination. However, they may not offer an opinion that the characteristics mean that the driver is under the influence of marijuana. As Washington State continues to crack down on DUI’s generally, and Marijuana DUI’s specifically, it will be interesting to see how FST’s are dealt with in the prosecution of these cases.
If you or a loved one is accused of DUI, you should immediately consult with a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer. A qualified and respected Seattle DUI lawyer, among other things, can quite possibly save the aggrieved person thousands of dollars in court and insurance fees, the extent of loss of privilege to drive, and the amount of jail time to be served. We have said it before and will say it again, Washington DUI laws are far too complicated for any ol’ attorney to handle. Be smart and consult with a qualified and skilled Seattle DUI attorney when arrested for an alcohol and/or drug related DUI in Washington State.