California Caffeine DUI vs. Stoned Drivers Safer than Drunk Drivers Says the Fed
So poor Joe Schwab is now accused of DUI in California after an “undercover” ABC agent pulls him over in her unmarked car for driving erratically reports ABC news. Only the ABC “agent” is employed by the California agency known as Alcohol Beverage Control, not ABC news. And, oh yeah, poor Joe Schwabb wasn’t drunk, wasn’t stoned, wasn’t under the influence of a scheduled controlled substance. Joe allegedly drank too much “joe.” Coffee is the cup Joe Schwab according to the “Guardian” that picked up in a story almost a week ago from Solano County outside of the Bay Area where Vallejo is the county’s biggest city.
It took nine months before Joe Schwab was charged for driving while impaired on caffeine. It seems hard to believe and neither attorneys Dan Smith or Jon Pettis, of San Diego Defenders APC, had ever heard of such a thing in their combined experience of nearly 50 years. “We have seen cases where a client’s PAS breathalyzer (hand-held breathalyzer) was 0.00% and our client then chooses a blood test and returns positive for prescription or other drugs, but we have never seen such a desperate attempt by the prosecution that they would send out for second test for anything, and I do mean anything!” said DUI attorney Dan Smith.
“What makes this case extremely unusual is that an unmarked ABC agent pulled over a driver for allegedly cutting her off and erratic driving. When all the tests came back negative, the blood was sent to Pennsylvania for a screen for ANY type of drug and all they came up with was caffeine.” So, 9 months after his arrest Joe Schwab is facing DUI charges. Attorney Jon Pettis laments that we would love to defend Joe Schwab in that DUI case.
But poor Joe’s DUI case brings up a question that NHTSA will be wrestling with for a long time. How much of anything is enough to impair a driver. Marijuana is now as legal as coffee. So the ongoing question will, no doubt, make many research institutes happy about the grants they will need to opine on the matter.
Ever since medical marijuana laws started to be passed, prosecutors and law enforcement have been up in arms about the threat of more stoned drivers and the assumed risk they are. With several states, including California, now legalizing pot outright, that panic has grown. It turns out, it may not be all that bad.
According to a study just released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a Federal agency that is usually very anti-any impaired driving, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than those who hadn’t used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving.
This study confirms research done years ago that showed drivers with small amounts of THC9, the active ingredient in pot, in their system were sometimes statistically safer drivers than people with no alcohol or drugs in their system whatsoever.
This recent study by NHTSA didn’t just stop with marijuana. The researchers found that along with marijuana, other legal and illegal drugs like stimulants, painkillers and anti-depressants, there was no statistically significant change in the risk of a crash caused by using the drugs before driving. However, for alcohol levels of 0.05% or more, the driver was seven times more likely to crash.
NHTSA said it pretty clearly, “At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment.”
The reason this is a big deal is because some States are setting per se legal limits for THC( like they have for alcohol. Almost everyone knows that driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more is illegal. Colorado, for example, when it legalized pot, made it so that it was illegal to drive if you have 5 nanograms of THC9 in your system. California is considering doing the same thing.
The problem is, while research shows most drivers are unsafe at 0.08% blood alcohol content, the research about marijuana and other drugs cannot come up with any magic number.
The reality is that some drivers after recent pot use could be below or above 5 nanograms of THC( in their system and be dangerous and too impaired to drive. But, someone who is not high could still have well above 5 nanograms of THC9 in their system and be perfectly safe to drive. That becomes even more true for people who smoke pot frequently. THC can stay in fat cells for days or weeks, especially if it is used fairly regularly. So, someone could be totally sober, no THC affecting their brain, but, under the per se laws, still be found guilty.
You can also purchase Judge’s Top Secret Guide to Beat a DUI by Hon. Ralph G. Smith and Daniel M. Smith, Esq. at http://ow.ly/grTI307z53N