Category Archives: Blood Test

New Federal Data Shows Decrease in Drunk Driving Rates

Image result for decrease in dui

According to reporter Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post, new federal statistics show that the rate of drunken driving in the United States fell to a 13-year low in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. The rate of driving under the influence of illicit drugs has not changed meaningfully in recent years but remains slightly lower than it was in 2008 and 2009 at the start of the Obama administration.

Here’s a summary of some other findings:

  • In 2014, 27.7 million people aged 16 or older (11.1 percent) drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year, and 10.1 million (4.1 percent) drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year. About 7.0 million (2.8 percent) drove under the influence of alcohol and illicit drugs in the past year, including 5.9 million (2.4 percent) who drove under the simultaneous influence of alcohol and illicit drugs in the past year.
  • The percentage of people driving under the influence generally increased with age through the young adult years and then declined with age thereafter; percentages were higher among males than females.
  • The percentage of people aged 16 or older who drove under the influence of alcohol in 2014 (11.1 percent) was lower than the percentages in 2002 through 2012 (ranging from 11.8 to 15.3 percent).
  • The percentage of people aged 16 or older who drove under the influence of illicit drugs was lower in 2014 (4.1 percent) than in 2002 through 2006 and in 2009 through 2010.
  • The percentage of people aged 16 or older who drove under the simultaneous influence of alcohol and illicit drugs was lower in 2014 (2.4 percent) than in 2002 through 2010 (ranging from 2.9 to 3.4 percent).

Ingraham reported that although experts caution that while the trend is heading in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work to be done. “Although it is heartening to see a downward trend in levels of driving under the influence of alcohol, it still kills thousands of people each year and shatters the lives of friends and loved ones left behind,” said Frances Harding, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at SAMHSA, the agency that produces the survey.

The SAMHSA survey showed that young adults — particularly men ages 21 to 25 — had by far the highest impaired driving rates. More than 1 in 5 men ages 21 to 25 drove drunk in 2014, nearly 1 in 7 drove under the influence of other drugs, and roughly 1 in 12 drove while simultaneously drunk and drugged.

One the other hand, young adults have also seen the greatest reductions in drunken driving prevalence over the past 13 years. Since 2002, the drunken driving rate fell by fewer than three percentage points among drivers age 26 and older. But the rate among drivers ages 21 to 25 dropped by more than 10 percentage points. And the prevalence among the youngest drivers, ages 16 to 20, fell by more than half.

Ingraham reports there’s no single factor driving the decline in drunken driving rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credits interventions like strong drunken driving laws, public awareness campaigns, and ignition interlock systems that don’t allow drunk drivers to start cars.

Some states are experimenting with innovative programs that essentially take away the right to drink alcohol, period, for people convicted of certain alcohol-related crimes. There’s also evidence that ride-sharing services like Uber can reduce drunken driving rates, although not all researchers agree on this.

My opinion? This is extremely good news. Although it’s important to save lives by reducing traffic accidents through education, prevention, and all other possible measures; it’s equally important that defendants facing these criminal charges hire capable and competent defense counsel as soon as possible to protect their rights, review the evidence and ensure a fair trial when necessary.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

AAA Questions Marijuana DUI Laws

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According to a news article from the Chicago Tribune, recent studies conducted by car insurer AAA find that blood tests given to drivers suspected of Marijuana DUI have no scientific basis.

A handful of studies released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers can have a low level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their blood and be unsafe behind the wheel, while others with relatively high levels may not be a hazard. Below are the individual studies accompanied by capsule summaries comprising the effort:

“If you’ve had marijuana whether it’s medicinal or otherwise, don’t drive,” said AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Mosher, “It’s really that simple.”

The studies examined the results of more than 5,300 people nationwide who were arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, 600 of whom tested positive for THC only, while the others had THC and other substances. This is because marijuana isn’t metabolized by the body in the same way as alcohol. The researchers compared the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) exam results of 602 drivers that only had THC present in their blood at the time of arrest to those of 349 volunteers that took the test drug-free and sober. Ultimately, the degree to which a driver is impaired by marijuana use depends a lot on the individual, the foundation said.

The data appears confusing because AAA also looked at Washington – one of the first states to legalize marijuana – and found fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled.

“ In most recent data 1 in 6 drivers who are involved in a fatal crash there had marijuana in there system,” Mosher  said.  “And as more and more states look at legalizing marijuana we see this as a concerning trend.”

Nevertheless, AAA is sending the message that the legal limits established for marijuana are arbitrary. A handful of states have moved to specify the maximum amount of active THC — the main chemical in marijuana — that drivers can have in their system. But AAA says that doesn’t work.

“We think those are meaningless,” said Mosher. “They are not backed by any science. One person can have one limit of THC in their blood and be significantly impaired and others can have that same limit and not be impaired at all,” Mosher said.

Many in law enforcement and AAA say that officer recognition of impaired drivers is really the only what to determine whether someone is too high to drive.  Of course all of this a public safety concerns as pot becomes legal across the country.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Prosecutors Must Reveal Toxicologist Identities in DUI Trials.

In State v. Salgado-Mendoza, the WA Court of Appeals Division II reversed a defendant’s DUI conviction because the Prosecutor failed to give Defense Counsel the name of their Toxicologist expert witness before trial.

On the evening of August 11, 2012, a Washington State Patrol trooper observed Mr. Salgado-Mendoza driving his vehicle and struggling to stay in his lane of travel. The trooper stopped the vehicle. Salgado-Mendoza was investigated and arrested for DUI. His BAC test showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.103 and 0.104; which is over the .o8 limit.

Several months before his trial date on the DUI charge, Salgado-Mendoza requested that the Prosecutor disclose information about any and all expert witnesses the Prosecutor intended to call at trial. This regularly happens when defense attorneys argue motions to compel. The Prosecutor attempted to contact the toxicology lab by phone to narrow the list of possible toxicology witnesses, but was unsuccessful.

Three days before trial, Salgado-Mendoza filed a motion requesting that the court dismiss the case or exclude the toxicologist’s evidence based on governmental misconduct.

On the afternoon before trial, the State received a list of three toxicologists, one of whom might testify the next day. The State provided this list to Salgado-Mendoza.

When the parties appeared for trial on May 9, Salgado-Mendoza re-argued his motion to exclude the toxicologist’s testimony or to dismiss the DUI charge because the State had still not disclosed which toxicologist would testify. The Court denied the motion. Salgado-Mendoza was found guilty at trial.

Salgado-Mendoza appealed his conviction to the superior court. Finding that the district court had abused its discretion by (1) not excluding the toxicologist’s testimony due to the State’s violation of the discovery rules and mismanagement of the case in failing to disclose its witness prior to trial, and (2) excluding the defense expert’s testimony about the breath-alcohol testing machine, the superior court reversed the DUI conviction and remanded the matter for a new trial. The State appealed to the WA Court of Appeals.

Ultimately, the WA Court of Appeals held that the Prosecutor violated the discovery rules under CrRLJ 4.7(d) by failing to take reasonable steps to obtain the name of its witness in a timely manner. It reasoned that the Prosecutor had an obligation to attempt to acquire and then disclose that information from the toxicology lab. Consequently, the Prosecutor’s failure to provide the defense with a specific witness’s name before trial is not reasonable. This, in turn, amounted to governmental misconduct under CrRLJ 8.3(b).

Furthermore, the Court held that Prosecutor’s misconduct was prejudicial and that the exclusion of the toxicologist’s testimony was the proper remedy. The Court emphasized this remedy was necessary because the issue was an issue of public importance:

“On retrial, the State should ensure that it provides the name and address of the person or persons it intends to call at trial or comply with CrRLJ 4.7(d) when preparing for the new trial.”

My opinion? Good decision. It is extremely difficult to provide a competent and adequate defense when Prosecutors do not follow the rules of discovery.

For those who don’t know, a Prosecutor must follow many procedures when trying cases. The following procedures expedite a fair trial and protect the constitutional rights of the defendant: (i) promote a fair and expeditious disposition of the charges, whether by diversion, plea, or trial; (ii) provide the defendant with sufficient information to make an informed plea; (iii) permit thorough preparation for trial and minimize surprise at trial; (iv) reduce interruptions and complications during trial and avoid unnecessary and repetitious trials by identifying and resolving prior to trial any procedural, collateral, or constitutional issues; (v) minimize the procedural and substantive inequities among similarly situated defendants; (vi) effect economies in time, money, judicial resources, and professional skills by minimizing paperwork, avoiding repetitious assertions of issues, and reducing the number of separate hearing; and (vii) minimize the burden upon victims and witnesses.

Here, knowing the names of the Prosecutor’s witnesses before trial is simply fair. Period.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Proposed Law Would Require Bartenders to Cut Drunk People Off

A news article written by S.E. Smith of reveals that a new bill was introduced into the California State Assembly that would require bartending personnel and managers to undergo training in how to handle alcohol and cut off intoxicated customers.

Under the Responsible Interventions for Beverage Servers Training Act of 2016 (RIBS), Assembly Bill 2121 would require bartenders to intervene when a bar customer has had too much to drink. The law, which if passed would go into effect in 2020, hopes to save lives decrease DUI, and curb drunk drivers. Bartenders would be required to complete a minimum of four training hours on subjects like recognizing intoxication and understanding the physical and social effects of alcohol. The course would also examine state laws surrounding beverage service. Every three years, participants would need to renew their certifications.

Although the California Business & Professions Code reveals that bartenders have always practiced some discretion in this area, the bill would create a more robust legal framework and provide bars with specific training requirements for staff. Furthermore, the legislation would ensure that bartenders across the state follow the same curriculum when they learn how to interact with customers.

According to S.E. Smith, one of the most frustrating parts of the job can involve making judgement calls about when someone has had too much to drink and needs to go home. Some states – including Washington State – have “cut off” laws requiring bartenders to stop serving intoxicated customers. Most have laws barring service to people who are already drunk. Individual bars also have their own policies and procedures for handling customers.

Drunk drivers are the main concern here. Intoxicated people who hurt themselves — an uninsured person who requires care for a broken limb, for instance —  may create public health nuisances and expenses. However, when intoxicated people get in cars, the decision can be fatal.

S.E. Smith emphasizes that 30 people die as a result of drunk driving every day in the United States, including sober drivers in other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. One third of traffic deaths can be attributed to intoxicated driving.

My opinion? Similar to Ms. Smith, this bill is a step in the right direction. Many of my DUI clients tell me they were over-served at the bars they frequented before being pulled over for DUI. It helps to have backup — like policies a bartender can apply — to remind a customer that they’re breaking the law if they kept serving.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

State v. Robison: Implied Consent & Pot DUI

In State v. Robison the WA Court of Appeals Division I held that a BAC test requires suppression when the officer giving the breath to a driver suspected of marijuana DUI fails to provide that driver with Implied Consent warnings required by that statute.

On June 29, 2013, Washington State Patrol Trooper B.S. Hyatt stopped Darren J. Robison for traffic violations. Trooper Hyatt smelled intoxicants and marijuana. Trooper Hyatt asked how long it had been since Robison had smoked marijuana. Robison responded that it had been a couple of hours. Trooper Hyatt arrested Robison. At the Tulalip Police Department, officers read Robison an “Implied Consent Warning for Breath” form, which Robison stated he understood and signed.

The form included warnings only about alcohol and did not include any marijuana-related warnings. The two breath tests given Robison both produced results over the legal limit. The State charged Robison with DUI. Robison asked the district court to suppress evidence based on an illegal stop and to suppress the breath test because Robison did not receive all required implied consent warnings.

The district court denied the motion. It concluded that Trooper Hyatt had probable cause to stop Robison. The district court also took judicial notice that the breath test used cannot detect THC, and that its purpose was to determine the alcohol concentration in Robison’s breath. The district court decided that the implied consent warnings given accurately informed Robison of the consequences of the breath tests, which “were all the warnings that were legally required on the date of violation given the decision facing the defendant.” The district court found Robison guilty but stayed his sentence pending his appeal. Robison appealed to the superior court.

The superior court reversed the district court. It found that the marijuana-related warnings were a significant part of the required implied consent warnings and the failure to give these warnings under the circumstances made the warnings given incomplete and misleading. The superior court suppressed the test results and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its decision.

Ultimately, the WA Court of Appeals granted the State’s request for discretionary review of the superior court’s decision.

First, the Court of Appeals gave background on how police officers apply Washington’s Implied Consent Laws in DUI investigations. Before giving a breath test to a person reasonably believed to be driving under the influence, an officer must provide that person with certain warnings required by statute. Specifically, an officer must inform the driver of his right to refuse the test or to have additional tests done.

The Court reasoned that the officer’s warning must also state that refusal to take the test will result in license revocation, that the refusal may be used at a criminal trial, and that the driver may be eligible for an ignition interlock license. Pertinent to this case, the officer must also warn about the consequences of certain test results. This warning has changed several times in recent years.

The court further explained that in 2012, Washington voters enacted Initiative 502, which legalized some uses of marijuana. This initiative also amended Washington’s Implied Consent laws by adding a warning about marijuana test results.

In this case, Trooper Hyatt warned Robison about the consequences of test results showing an alcohol concentration in his breath. However, Trooper Hyatt failed to warn Robison of the consequences of test results showing a prohibited level of THC concentration in his blood. Consequently, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the BAC test was properly suppressed because of this omission.

Additionally, the Court rejected the State’s argument that (1) an arresting officer has discretion to edit implied consent warnings as he deems appropriate to the facts of a case, and (2) the officer’s incomplete warning was harmless. Here, Robison smelled of marijuana when arrested and admitted smoking marijuana to the arresting officer. “Under these circumstances, we cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Robison would have agreed to take the breath test had he received the THC warning.”

The Court of Appeals concluded that because the State cannot show that an officer gave Robison all the statutorily required warnings, it cannot establish the foundation required for admission of the breath tests given to him. “While cases have characterized this result as suppression, when the State cannot show that it complied with the implied consent statute, the State has failed to meet its burden of proof for admission of evidence it offers to prove guilt. The defendant does not have to show prejudice in this circumstance.”

With that, the Court of Appeals affirmed the superior court’s decision to suppress Robison’s BAC test.

My opinion? Good decision.  DUI investigations involving Implied Consent Warnings must keep up with today’s legislative amendments. The law is the law.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Study: Youth Tolerance Of Marijuana May Increase Chances of DUI

Study offers support for the notion of e-cigarettes as a gateway drug

A new study from the journal Pediatrics suggests ways to reduce the risk that children will drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs as teenagers.

The study found that 12-year-old children who believed marijuana could help them relax or was otherwise beneficial were more likely to drive under the influence when they were 16. The study also showed these minors were also significantly more likely to ride with someone else who was buzzed, drunk or high behind the wheel.

“Youth view marijuana use as less dangerous than drinking,” the study authors wrote. “We must begin to address how changing views of marijuana might increase risk for not only marijuana use, but other behaviors.”

Driving under the influence is common among American teenagers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10% of high school students do so in any given month, and more than 20% have been passengers of someone driving under the influence.

So researchers from Rand Corp. in Santa Monica and Arlington, Va., went looking for risk factors in middle school that could predict these dangerous behaviors in high school. They turned to data from a substance use prevention program called CHOICE that was tested in 16 middle schools in greater Los Angeles.

The Rand researchers focused on 1,124 students who completed detailed surveys in 2009 (when their average age was 12.2 years old), 2011 (when their average age was 14.3) and 2013 (when their average age was 16.3 and 88% were eligible to drive in California). The majority of these students (57%) were girls, and half were Latino.

Using statistical models to control for the students’ age, gender, race and ethnicity, school and whether their mothers had graduated from high school, the researchers identified several factors that seemed to predict unsafe driving at age 16.

According to the study, those who held more tolerant ideas about marijuana when they were 12 (in sixth or seventh grade) were 63% more likely than their peers to admit either driving under the influence themselves or to ride with someone who was under the influence

Additionally, 12-year-olds who felt most confident that they could resist marijuana use wound up being 89% more likely to mix alcohol and drugs with cars, motorcycles or other vehicles. This finding surprised the researchers, they wrote.

By the time the students were 14, some of the risk factors had changed. Those who said they had used alcohol in the last month were more than twice as likely as their peers to drive under the influence or ride with an intoxicated driver two years later.

Also, those whose friends used marijuana were 2.4 times more likely to be involved in unsafe driving later, and those whose family members used marijuana were 54% more likely to do the same.

And positive beliefs about marijuana still mattered — 14-year-olds who had them were still 67% more likely to mix alcohol, drugs and motor vehicles at age 16.

The researchers noted that marijuana has taken on a benign image among middle schoolers “as medical and recreational marijuana legalization increases in our country, adolescents are becoming more accepting of marijuana use,” they wrote. “This highlights the need to address these types of beliefs as early as sixth grade.”

My opinion? If these studies are accurate, they merely reveal our need to EDUCATE our youth about drugs, alcohol and vehicles. In short, DRUGS/ALCOHOL AND VEHICLES DON’T MIX. It doesn’t matter what type of drug you’re taking; whether it be prescription, medical marijuana or street drugs. Don’t do drugs and drive. And it doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you’re drinking. Don’t drink and drive.  If your doctor informs you that taking your prescription medication may affect your ability to operate a motor vehicle, then please think twice about operating a motor vehicle.

I’ve assisted many clients facing DUI charges of varying degrees. However, studies like this show that society is becoming less tolerant and sympathetic toward individuals charged with DUI. It takes a very competent and experienced defense attorney to reveal the science, forensics and idiosyncrasies of DUI litigation in today’s anti-drug climate.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New DUI Court Helps Native Americans

An Albuquerque, New Mexico court is taking bold and progressive steps in stopping Native Americans from committing DUI.

The newly established Urban Native American Drug Court uses nine months of treatment and supervision instead of incarceration to deter alcoholism. In order to qualify, each defendant must be Native American and have been convicted of more than two DWIs.

“The idea is to try to incorporate some of the traditional beliefs into healing and wellness,” Judge Maria Dominguez said.

Officials said the biggest challenge is a fear of losing their spirituality. David Lente, a Native American substance abuse counselor in Albuquerque, provides the therapeutic component of the program by integrating activities cultural activities, like talking circles and community service projects. The hope is to reconnect Native American defendants with the positive aspects of their culture.

Court officials said drug court, as a whole, is a much more effective tool than jail time. They said only 6 percent of those who participate end up getting arrested again for drunken driving.

My opinion? This program is an excellent progressive step forward. Typically, alcohol abuse is symptomatic of something much worse taking place within the abuser. They may be suffering with physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual health issues and using alcohol to self-medicate. Kudos to Judge Dominguez in the continued success of this program.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

State v. Martines: WA Supreme Court Finds Defendant Guilty of DUI on Blood Test Case

Bad news.

In State v. Martines, the Washington Supreme Court reversed the WA Court of Appeals Division I. I blogged about this case last year in State v. Martines: More Good Caselaw on Blood tests Taken After DUI Arrests. There, the WA Court of Appeals version of State v. Martines held that the blood test performed on Martines was an unlawful warrantless search. The Court of Appeals also reasoned that drawing blood and testing blood constitute separate searches, each of which requires particular authorization, and that the warrant here authorized only a blood draw.

The original Martines opinion appeared strong. It was rooted in the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely; which requires police officers to obtain search warrants for blood draws in DUI cases when exigent circumstances do not otherwise exist. It also followed Washington State legalizing marijuana, thus necessitating stronger regulations and monitoring of blood tests performed during DUI investigations.

The WA Supreme Court decided differently in a short, scathing opinion signed by all justices.

First, the Court held that a warrant authorizing the testing of a blood sample for intoxicants does not require separate findings of probable cause to suspect drug and alcohol use so long as there is probable cause to suspect intoxication that may be caused by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

Second, the Court  further held that the search warrant lawfully authorized testing Martines’s blood sample for intoxicants because it authorized a blood draw to obtain evidence of DUI. In other words, the search of Martines’s blood did not exceed the bounds of the search warrant when a sample of Martines’s blood was extracted and tested for intoxicants anyway.

My opinion?

Bad decision. I’m amazed the WA Supremes didn’t discuss Missouri v. McNeely at all. Not once. McNeely profoundly and significantly evolved search and seizure law concerning blood draws in DUI investigations. Indeed, McNeely was the underpinnings for Division One Court of Appeals case State v. Martinez. Yet the WA Supremes ignore McNeely as if it didn’t exist. Ignoring case precedents violates stare decisis, plain and simple.

Hopefully, this case gets appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for further review.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

“Studies” Show Pot-Related Accidents Doubled from 2013-2014


Newly released data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) shows that marijuana is increasing as a factor in deadly crashes. The number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in accidents has nearly doubled at a 48% increase from 2013 to 2014.

“We have seen marijuana involvement in fatal crashes remain steady over the years, and then it just spiked in 2014,” said Dr. Staci Hoff, WTSC Data and Research Director.

Also , Julie Furlong of the WTSC said 60% of the drivers involved in fatal or deadly crashes between 2010 and 2014 were tested for drugs. Of those tested, about 20% were positive for pot. These figures match those of previous years, they remained about the same year after year.

New testing and new analytics are now allowing the WTSC to determine specific THC levels at the time the driver is tested following an incident or crash. It’s called “active THC,” or enough to impair the driver’s coordination and judgement.  According to the WTSC, less than half of drivers who tested positive for pot in 2010 had active TCH. However, that number increased to 65% in 2013, and skyrocketed to 85% in 2014.

Dr.Staci Hoff, Data and Research Director for the Commission, says that simply means 85% of the drivers involved in deadly-fatal collisions in 2014 who had pot in their system were actually high at the time of the accident.

Young men between the ages of 21-25 have seen the greatest jump,  with over a 66% increase.

Some argue these facts show that since the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, we now face a potential epidemic of impaired drivers who are high behind the wheel. As a consequence, the National Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is gaining momentum. From now through Labor Day, extra law enforcement officers are patrolling areas and locations where DUI is a problem.

Over 100 law enforcement agencies including all districts of the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols all across the state. These extra patrols are all part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.

My opinion?

First, only 60% of fatal car crash victims were tested for drugs. Without understanding how this 60% was arrived at, we run the risk of a data selection bias.

Second, if 20% of the group tested positive for marijuana then this only reflects the actual percentage of cannabis users in the state; which, by itself, is not a very convincing argument of anything.

Third, we need more data. You can’t jump to conclusions based on data that’s too new. It needs more time to be compared against other factors. We don’t hear anything else about possible confounding factors to this data, which also raises serious suspicions. However even this admission whittles marijuana as the sole culprit down to maximum of 10% of all fatal crashes.

Fourth, the data comes on the heels of new DUI emphasis patrols. Sounds like a media spin to me.

Finally, what we really need to know is how many fatal accidents occurred solely for users of marijuana over the limit. This number would be the best indication of a causal relationship if confounding factors were accounted for and the sample size was unbiased.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Drug DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New Smartphone App Warns You When You’re Too Stoned To Drive


Detects Marijuana Impairment

Technology. Gotta love it.

Canary has created a smartphone app which checks your mental and physical performance levels after ingesting marijuana and before driving. The app has gained widespread popularity and is sanctioned by NORML, an organization whose mission is to move public opinion to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults.

The app is straightforward: after logging in, it quickly subjects users to four basic tests: (1) a memory challenge where you have to recall six numbers that briefly appear on screen, (2) a reaction-time game where you have to quickly identify a particular icon from a series of images that pop up, (3) a time-perception assessment where you have to count off 20 seconds in your head as accurately as possible, and (4) a balance test that uses your phone’s accelerometer to gauge your ability to stand motionless on one foot.

After taking the tests, the app compares your results to a personalized performance baseline based on your past attempts at the app or norms built into the program.

Canary then determines whether your performance is impaired. At the end of the three-minute session, a green light means you’re not impaired, a yellow light means you should reconsider driving, and a blinking red light means you are impaired.

“This tool ideally allows cannabis consumers to take control and identify when they present a traffic-safety risk or when they may be under the influence,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML. “I believe this is information that all responsible marijuana users will want to know.”

The secret to Canary is that it doesn’t focus on potential markers of impaired performance, like levels of THC in your breath, but instead on performance itself. And since it launched weeks ago, Canary has been downloaded more than 10,000 times and is attracting attention from major marijuana players.

My opinion? Canary moves in the right direction. When it comes to marijuana use, drug tests such as urinalyses or blood tests are highly retrospective. The best those tests can do is assess lifestyle and acknowledge that the perpetrator consumed pot at some time recently.  However, these tests have absolutely no impact on whether you can perform. It’s unfair to prosecute someone who might have smoked a joint on Thursday and tested positive on Monday. So yes, testing someone’s performance before driving is absolutely critical to discovering if they’re too stoned to drive.

There’s a social justice incentive behind accurate marijuana impairment tests as well: Since African-Americans are far more likely to be pulled over and arrested for marijuana offenses than whites, an objective way to determine who’s high and who’s not could help level the playing field.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.