States across the country have set a testable limit on the level of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream as a threshold in lieu of demonstrating impairment. While .08 has been established as a baseline legal limit for alcohol, there is no test available to readily measure the amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that is present in someone’s system. CNN.com took a long look at the issue, and at ongoing efforts to create a test similar to the breathalyzers that measure alcohol for purposes of prosecuting DUIs.
It is against the law for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if the drugs have been prescribed. Florida defines under the influence as “under the influence to the extent that normal faculties are impaired,” and other states use similar definitions. That’s why law enforcement use field sobriety exercises: they are meant to give the officers a chance to observe a driver to see if their faculties appear to be impaired. The shortcoming of those tests is their unreliability and that they are subjective: an officer will see impairment if they are looking for it. The breath and blood alcohol tests at least provide some consistency, though they are not impairment based. Time will tell if science can come up with something comparable for THC and other controlled substances.
Reliance on impairment based tests is challenging for law enforcement when a case goes to trial. Unless the impairment is clear, a jury may be reluctant to find it beyond a reasonable doubt. The subjectivity may matter more in a DUI than any other, and the outcome of a DUI is more dependent on the skill of the attorneys trying the case. The ambiguity cuts both ways, because the subjectivity of the field sobriety testing may lead to an arrest, and there is no dispositive scientific test to disprove the allegation. If a cop thinks you are impaired, you can be arrested, and the case may have to go to a jury trial. It will be interesting as this field becomes more important with the expansion of recreational and medicinal marijuana.
Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana: with over 71% of voters in favor. However, the state government has slow-rolled the medical marijuana licensing process, effectively making it difficult for everyone who might need the medical marijuana to get it as quickly as possible. They have also placed many burdensome restrictions on obtaining it, the most notable being that it is very hard to be able to simply smoke marijuana in leaf form. The system in place funnels people to using oils and other derivatives, and restricts the number of licenses for the dispensaries where prescriptions are available, making the limited licenses potentially very lucrative for the lucky few who can set up shop. This probably makes it far more expensive and difficult for sufferers to get the marijuana they need.
This resulted in a lawsuit against Florida from medical marijuana users challenging the legislation enacted to allow medical marijuana, alleging that it is insufficient and doesn’t follow the clear intent of the voters. That lawsuit was successful, but changes have not been enforced as the previous administration chose to appeal the ruling. That’s an expensive way for our own state government to avoid the will of the people and to dodge the intent of our constitution.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
New Governor Ron DeSantis, who has hit the ground running in Tallahassee, has given out indications he plans to make an about face on the State’s position. DeSantis said of the smoking ban, “I think a lot of voters were frustrated… […] They think there’s been a lot of foot dragging. So my job is, when the people speak, you have to listen. This was not an amendment that was really that close. It was like 72 percent.” DeSantis and his advisers have indicated an announcement is coming up, and that changes will be made in how the state is carrying out the medical marijuana amendment. It is believed the announcement may include dropping the appeal. One of his advisors even tweeted the hashtag, #nosmokeisajoke indicating support for a change in policy that would allow medical users to smoke.
With DeSantis and other republicans on board, the movement appears to have some bipartisan support. We just covered democrat Nikki Fried, the new Agriculture Commissioner, who is also pushing to change the regulatory scheme for medical marijuana. It should be something that both sides agree on, that people who have a medical need and a prescription, ought to be able to get the marijuana they need to help their condition. That’s the compassionate, and most cost-effective, approach.
As always, a reminder that marijuana still requires a prescription to possess or to smoke. If you don’t have a card, it’s a crime that will subject you to arrest, and possible jail time, not to mention a mandatory driver’s license suspension. Call an attorney right away if you get in trouble, this is the kind of thing an experienced criminal law attorney can help you with!
Don’t forget, it is still a crime to possess marijuana or anything marijuana related in the State of Florida. New Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried announced yesterday she is going to name a cannabis director to oversee issues related to medical marijuana, agricultural hemp and marijuana edibles. I’m sharing this not just to highlight her efforts to improve the regulatory system for Floridians, which we support, but to remind everyone that it is still a crime to possess marijuana without that card. Even a little bit of marijuana is a crime, even a pipe is a crime, and any amount of oil containing THC is a felony. Conviction for any drug offense also carries a mandatory driver’s license suspension.
The fact that Florida has medical marijuana does not mean that it’s OK to carry around some weed. The laws are still being enforced, and sometimes aggressively. If you do get caught, contact your attorney right away!
I’ve seen the shirt that reads “If you see the police WARN A BROTHER” shirt around a few times. It’s a funny play on the similar-sounding Warner Brothers, and the text superimposed on the WB logo. It’s funny, I giggled, check it out in the mug shot.
Well, a guy in Fort Myers apparently takes it more seriously. I’ll call him by his first name, Anthony, since it’s just a misdemeanor. An FMPD officer says he was acting suspicious on the sidewalk, and when he walked over to investigate, he dropped a partially smoked marijuana cigarette.The cop says he saw Anthony try to hand something to a friend, and then hide his arms behind his back, but you gotta think he saw the shirt. You just KNOW he saw the shirt…
Why didn’t anyone Warn a brother?
When people say that people don’t really go to jail for marijuana, they are wrong.
A 21-year-old man tried to take off from an attempted traffic stop on Easter morning, only to collide with a turning vehicle as he sped away: and surveillance cameras caught the dramatic collision on video. It’s a stark and scary reminder of the violence when one more more vehicles is travelling at a high rate of speed. Miraculously, the motorcycle driver, Joey Pinheiro of North Fort Myers, survived, and will likely be facing criminal charges.
Robert Hayden Jr., via LCSO
There was another high-profile fleeing case on Easter, as a man riding an ATV in traffic on Palm Beach also fled from an attempted traffic stop. That man also ended up crashing his vehicle, though he ended up stuck in a ditch, and with less serious injuries. Robert Hayden Jr. was charged with fleeing, as well as possession of marijuana and for gun charges. Failing to stop for law enforcement officers is a felony in Florida: so many times the fleeing charge ends up being more serious than whatever infraction for which the cops initially tried to stop somebody.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, North Fort Myers / Southwest Florida
Tagged accident, atv, drugs, firearm, fleeing, fort myers, fort myers beach, joey pinheiro, marijuana, motorcycle, North Fort Myers, robert hayden
NBC-2 took a look at the actual cost to taxpayers of the prosecution of marijuana offenses. As a sample, they found that on one day there were 29 offenders in the Collier County jail for misdemeanor marijuana offenses. At a cost of more than $100 per day to house them, that totaled over $3,000.00 in incarceration fees- just for one day! Lee county, with a larger population, likely has even more marijuana offenders.
The costs calculated by NBC does not include the other costs: costs for the prosecutor’s office, court administration fees, and legal defense costs (because it’s a criminal offense, all defendants are entitled to have an attorney, and the state pays if they cannot afford it.) Some of these costs are offset by imposing financial assessments to the defendants… but the guys (and gals) in jail won’t be paying them.
Further, and one of the main complaints of those who are challenging are the collateral consequences: people are burdened with the stigma of arrest, they are followed around by their convictions and mug shots, and in Florida, a conviction also leads to a mandatory driver’s license suspension! That makes it even harder for people to put their mistakes behind them and to be productive members of society: if they can’t drive, a lot of people lose their jobs, for instance. That’s why it’s imperative to get an experienced criminal law attorney to represent you if you get arrested- even if it’s ‘just a little weed’.
Police allege Chad and Joey Mudd gave their 13 and 14-year-old daughters drugs as a “bargaining tool” to entice them to do chores and go to school. Apparently, marijuana and even cocaine were involved. They face Child Abuse charges, and the father also faces cocaine possession, they have been released from the St. Petersburg jail on bond.
And now I have Primus in my head…