According to Georgia’s DUI statute as it relates to marijuana and other drugs, a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while they are under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391. This means that the prosecution must prove, beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt, that the driver charged with DUI Drugs was impaired by marijuana or any other controlled substance. This standard is difficult for the prosecution to establish.
There are numerous governmental studies that have analyzed whether it can be determined from a blood or urine test, as well as from field sobriety tests, whether an officer can find that a driver was in fact impaired based on consumption of marijuana or other drugs. According to a 2017 congressional study, traditional law enforcement tools related to detecting drivers impaired by marijuana, and most other drugs, is significantly less valid or effective as those developed for alcohol. NHTSA, Marijuana Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress, 2017. In this study, it found that there was a poor correlation between THC concentrations in the blood and impairment. It concluded that a blood or urine sample from the driver, which tested the presence and amount of marijuana consumption, was not a reliable indicator of impairment. It further stated that there is not a reliable test used to determine how an average person eliminates drugs from the body as there is for alcohol. Therefore, an experienced criminal defense attorney could successfully defend a charge of DUI Drugs by arguing that a blood or urine test is not reliable to prove that the driver was in fact impaired.
Another possible defense for an attorney defending a DUI Drugs case is tolerance. In general, field sobriety tests, used by officers to determine whether a driver is under the influence while operating a motor vehicle, are sensitive to the effects of THC depending on dose and marijuana use history. The tolerance defense also can be used for most other drugs, as well as for alcohol. However, unlike for alcohol, field sobriety evaluations do little, if anything, to aid law enforcement in correctly identifying drivers who are impaired by drugs. Furthermore, low doses of marijuana for heavy cannabis users would not affect field sobriety test performance. W.M. Bosker, A Placebo-Controlled Study to Assess SFST Performance During Alcohol and Cannabis Intoxication in Heavy Cannabis Users, 2012. Additionally, many experts have found that human beings vary wildly in their sensitivity to marijuana, as well as for other drugs. See Love v. State, 271 Ga. 398 (1999). Without understanding exactly what phase and how the body is reacting to the drug, any assumption of the amount of the drug in the body would be a guess, and likely, not even an educated one at that. Furthermore, there are numerous factors that could determine how marijuana or other drugs will affect the driver, such as body size, gender, age, genetics, dosage, tolerance, etc. Thus, without knowing the full picture, any blood, urine test, or field sobriety evaluation would not be reliable and could not be applied in a fair and efficient manner that could justly convict a driver of DUI Drugs.
Therefore, it is of vital importance to hire a criminal defense attorney who understands these potential defenses, as well as the deficiencies of traditional law enforcement tools related to DUI detection. Here, at the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we are very experienced in the area of DUI Drugs, we understand the potential defenses, as well as all of your possible options. If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI Drugs, please call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.