In Atlanta there has been a shift of priority among law enforcement from alcohol DUI cases to DUI cases involving drugs, especially with regards to marijuana. Georgia State Patrol and other police agencies have made marijuana DUI arrests a top priority in the area as consumption of this substance has dramatically increased leading to more people being stopped and investigated for having consumed marijuana and other drugs prior to driving. This increase has then led to more convictions, thereby making it important that those accused consult with a DUI drug lawyer in Atlanta as soon as they are accused.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created a program called Drug Recognition Expert. In this program all officers are trained to give certain field sobriety tests that detect or are supposed to detect the presence of drugs, regardless of whether the drugs are prescription drugs or illegal drugs. These tests are taught to officers at the state police academy during a 2 week course and have a certain degree of scientific validity if done properly to determine if a person is actually under the influence of drugs.
Officers do use field sobriety tests for drug DUI cases as there are three tests that almost all officers are trained to give:
However, these these tests are validated primarily for the detection of alcohol in a driver and are not designed to detect impairment by marijuana or other substances such as Xanax or prescription pills. As such, some officers have received additional training to be able to detect drugs as what’s called a “Drug Recognition Experts”, however this training is time consuming and expensive so not every officer is trained.
It is important for people to remember that just because the laws regarding possession of marijuana have relaxed, it does not mean that the laws regarding a marijuana DUI have also been relaxed. As the opposite as in fact be proven true, drug DUI laws are tougher and will continue to get tougher as more and more people are using drugs like marijuana. The legislature is very concerned about the effects of impaired drivers and is working to strengthen the tools available to law enforcement and prosecutors and to continue to make the penalties for drug DUIs even more severe.
One of the most common differences between an alcohol DUI case and a marijuana drug case that attorneys see during trial is that most potential jurors understand alcohol. Most of them have consumed this themselves and, if not, they have certainly seen other people under the influence of alcohol. However, drugs such as marijuana are harder to detect and harder to understand by a person who does not use marijuana. As a result it is often important for the defense attorney to educate the jurors about how marijuana affects a person and how it does not affect them.
Going all the way back to the 1920s when the provision against marijuana really began, there has been a lot of misinformation put out about the effects of it. People who have never considered marijuana probably have an exaggerated view of how dangerous it is or how impairing it is. That is one of the things we have to talk with the jurors about and actually educate the jurors during the course of the trial about what marijuana impairment should look like.