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What's Causing the Increase in Marijuana DUI Arrests, Legal Pot or Police Education?

b2ap3 thumbnail Smoking Joint 20150813 172021 1A recent report from the Colorado State Patrol showed a significant increase in the number of DUI-D arrests in 2016. Some would naturally assume that increased drugged driving rates are the result of marijuana legalization, but it this accurate? Or is there some other unexpected variable in play?

Chief of Police Bob Ticer of Loveland Police Department believes that it is not increased marijuana usage resulting from legalization that is causing the uptick in DUI-D arrests, but rather more comprehensive training by police to recognize signs of impairment, from alcohol, marijuana and all other sources. Part of this, he argues, is by design. Since his tenure began as Chief of Police, more officers have taken advanced training on sobriety testing. By the end of this year, every Loveland police officer will have received that training. Additionally, Colorado State Police hope to recruit new DREs – Drug Recognition Experts – throughout all state agencies to further increase police capability to detect impairment.

What Do Drug Recognition Experts Look for in Impaired Drivers?

Detecting marijuana in drivers is not as simple as it is with alcohol. Alcohol, for the most part, has universal effects. Trouble staying in lanes, erratic speeding up and slowing down, slurred speech, glassy eyes and an inability to follow instructions are all classic signs of a drunk driver. But marijuana can have a broad range of effects, dependent on a person’s gender, weight and tolerance to THC. The habitual smoker could have a ton of THC in his or her blood and not be impaired, whereas the first-time toker could be a paranoid mess, with bloodshot eyes and shaky fingers.

The DRE protocol for identifying impaired drivers does not specify whether a person is high on meth, cocaine, marijuana or any specific drug, but can identify signs that point to each. Here are some of the tests DREs use for testing impairment:

  1. Ask the subject to close their eyes and touch their nose in a specific manner
  2. Ask the subject to count 30 seconds and gauge their accuracy.
  3. Check the person’s pupils. Can they cross their eyes? Are their eyes wandering?
  4. Check blood pressure.
  5. Check muscle response.
  6. Note their responses to questions.
  7. Urine tests.

Our Denver DUI attorneys know the strategies that prosecutors use to try to prove your impairment. We can help you fight back.

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