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Marijuana DUI Field Sobriety Tests

Knowledgeable Tacoma Attorneys Representing Drivers Facing Prosecution

Washington has legalized recreational marijuana, which means that there are many more drivers arrested and convicted for marijuana DUI now than there used to be. Police officers can find it difficult to determine whether to arrest a driver for marijuana DUI. Unlike with an alcohol-related DUI, there are very few tools that can be administered on the roadside that reliably and accurately detect marijuana impairment. Often, to make an arrest for marijuana DUI, officers need to rely on field sobriety tests. Marijuana DUI field sobriety tests are not always accurate, and the Tacoma marijuana DUI lawyers at Smith & White may be able to challenge these results and get them suppressed.

Marijuana DUI Field Sobriety Tests

There are tools being developed to test for marijuana use. However, the tools currently on the market often take days to process and cannot decipher the timing of a driver’s marijuana use. There may be THC in your bloodstream, even if you last smoked a few weeks ago. New tools are being developed, but until they are available, officers rely largely on observations and field sobriety tests to determine whether somebody is impaired by marijuana.

There are three field sobriety tests that have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): the walk and turn, the one leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. However, the tests were originally designed for drunk driving purposes instead of marijuana DUI purposes. Impairment due to alcohol consumption is different from impairment due to marijuana use.

Additionally, an arresting officer trained as a Drug Recognition Expert may try to get a driver to submit to an evaluation. If all of the steps of this evaluation are completed, the officer’s testimony may be admitted as expert testimony. The officer is supposed to log all of the evaluations that are part of the Drug Recognition Expert evaluation. The log should indicate how well the Drug Recognition Expert is able to accurately identify the type of drug used as validated or invalidated by blood analysis.

Field sobriety tests may be conducted along with the Drug Recognition Evaluation. Field sobriety tests may be admissible as evidence in court, but a defense attorney often can challenge them in various ways, such as attacking how they were administered or arguing that the test results were obtained as a result of a constitutional rights violation.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

When administering the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, an officer moves an object or their own finger from side to side before the driver’s face. They do this to try to determine whether there is an involuntary jerking of the eye, which is associated with significant intoxication. Your eye may jerk back and forth if it is strained at more than a 45-degree angle when you are under the influence. For alcohol (but not marijuana), this type of field sobriety test is considered 77% reliable.

Walk and Turn Test

The walk and turn test divides your attention between tasks that require physical attention and tasks that require mental attention. The officer will give you instructions and determine whether you walk an incorrect number of steps, stop being able to stay on the line, start before being instructed to do so, or lose your balance. The NHTSA has estimated that the test is effective 68% of the time for alcohol.

One Leg Stand Test

During a one leg stand, a police officer will tell you to lift your foot, stay still, count, and look down. The officer may believe that you are under the influence if you hop, put your foot down, or sway. The NHTSA has estimated that the test is reliable 65% of the time for alcohol. Of the three primary field sobriety tests, therefore, this test is considered the least reliable.

Consult an Experienced Tacoma Attorney

We can evaluate the circumstances of your case to determine whether any irregularities may provide grounds to bring a motion to suppress evidence. If you believe that there was a problem with your marijuana DUI field sobriety tests, this may be a basis for your defense. Based in Tacoma, the attorneys at Smith & White represent drivers across Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties. Call us at (253) 203-1645 or contact us through our online form.

Client Reviews
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I was represented by James White and have been nothing but satisfied with the outcome. Jame is very efficient and eliminates much of the stress that the judicial system can place on an offender. I am very grateful to have such a great attorney and owe him my gratitude for helping me when times were rough. Not only is he professional, but he is also someone you can talk to on a personal level. I highly recommend James White and would undoubtedly use him again in the future. If you are in search of an attorney, do yourself a favor and have the law offices of Smith & White represent you. Mike D.
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I contacted James after my charge for reckless endangerment, and right from the start he was informative and reassuring. James worked hard to get me the best possible outcome, and was always very quick to return a call or text. He was straightforward and honest with me about my case, explaining both the good and the bad in a way that was reassuring without being misleading. Overall, I highly recommend Smith and White to anyone who is looking for the most professional representation in their legal matters. Matthew B.
★★★★★
Attorney James White was a beacon of hope for me at a time when my options appeared limited and the likeness of a satisfactory resolution seemed close to nothing. Not only was he able to defend me in a specific sticky situation in which I hired him for, I felt as though he also went above and beyond in efforts to provide me with the best outcome possible. His calm and professional demeanor offered such a great assurance to myself and those I care about around me. I am completely grateful for his service and I most definitely recommend Mr. White. Leyasha J.
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Derek Smith guided us through a troubling legal situation with absolute professionalism. This was my first experience with a trial situation and Mr. Smith was able to address all of my questions and concerns in a way that helped address some of the fear I had regarding the legal system. Mr. Smith was highly effective during the trial and the result ended up in our favor. Legal troubles are scary and it was great knowing we had a fantastic legal team on our side to help navigate the somewhat confusing situation. My wife and I emphatically recommend this law firm. Steve B.
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Mr. Smith was wonderful to work with. He was professional, knowledgeable and effective!! He takes the time to listen, which is amazing and can be a hard quality to find! He is informative and straight forward, which I truly appreciate! He was quite helpful on another matter that I asked his advise on. Thank you!!! Melika