Over the last several years, over half of the states in the United States have legalized marijuana in one form or another. Although the State of Nebraska is not one of those states, we share a border with Colorado, one of the states that have been at the forefront of the legalization movement. Not only is medical marijuana legal in Colorado, but so is recreational use legal in the state. Even in states such as Colorado where recreational use of marijuana is legal, however, one thing remains illegal – driving under the influence of marijuana. Of course, in Nebraska, driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) has always been, and remains, illegal. What qualifies as “under the influence” though when the substance in question is marijuana? How much marijuana must a motorist ingest before he/she is presumed to be under the influence? Most importantly, how can the police detect marijuana in a driver’s system and how accurate is the test used to do so? The Cass County DUI attorneys at Petersen Law Office offer some insight into these questions and answers relating to driving under the influence of marijuana.
Nebraska’s DUID Law
When most people think of “driving under the influence” they assume it refers to driving under the influence of alcohol; however, the law in the State of Nebraska (and in most other states) is very clear that it can also mean driving under the influence of a controlled substance (drugs). Nebraska Revised Statute 60-6,196 governs driving under the influence, reading as follows:
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or be in the actual physical control of any motor vehicle:
(a) While under the influence of alcoholic liquor or of any drug;
(b) When such person has a concentration of eight-hundredths of one gram or more by weight of alcohol per one hundred milliliters of his or her blood; or
(c) When such person has a concentration of eight-hundredths of one gram or more by weight of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of his or her breath.
As you can see in Section (1)(a), it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or of any drug. In Nebraska, marijuana remains classified as a controlled substance, meaning it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Knowing what is illegal, however, is not quite that simple though because the term “under the influence” remains to be defined.
Before breath test machines were invented and widely used, driving under the influence laws across the country had the same problem when it came to defining “under the influence” of alcohol. How do you prove someone is under the influence? Where is the line that separates a driver who has consumed alcohol but can still safely drive and a driver who has consumed enough alcohol to be “under the influence?” The widespread use of breath test machines offered a solution to this problem by making it relatively easy to obtain a test result showing how much alcohol was in a motorist’s system. Hence the addition of the “0.08 BAC” standard to DUI laws across the country. This same test and standard, however, does not exist for marijuana.
The Problem with Testing for the Presence of Marijuana
The reason there is no “0.08 BAC” equivalent for marijuana in the state’s DUID laws is that there is no test that can provide a similar result. Breath test machines cannot even detect the presence of marijuana in a motorist’s system. Coming up with a standardized blood or breath test is not easy because of the properties of the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Unlike alcohol, which dissolves in water within a matter of hours, THC dissolves in fat and can take weeks to dissolve. Moreover, the rate at which THC dissolves can vary widely from one person to the next. Consequently, even using a blood test, which can detect the presence of marijuana in a suspect’s system, isn’t all that helpful from a legal standpoint because it falls short of proving that a motorist is “under the influence.” The problem is that 5 nanograms of THC in one person’s system would not have the same effect as 5 nanograms in another person’s system. If you have been accused of DUID in Nebraska, talk to your DUI defense attorney about the problem the State is likely to have trying to prove that you were under the influence.
Contact Cass County DUI Attorneys
If you were recently arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in Cass County, Nebraska, contact a Nebraska DUI lawyer at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.