Science Lagging When It Comes To Determining Marijuana DUI

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) – “The freeway is a dangerous place,” said Officer David Martinez with the California Highway Patrol.

Around 3:30 on Wednesday afternoon, a Yuba County man was killed while changing a flat tire along the shoulder of Interstate 80 in Roseville.

“When the car was hit, It came off the jack and there were scrape marks from it being pushed,” said Martinez.

Martinez says Brandon Rotolo, 24, of Vacaville, drifted off the road and collided with the man and his vehicle. The man died at the scene.

“We’re looking at other drugs including marijuana,” said Martinez.

Martinez says investigators were able to rule out alcohol, but did notice a strong smell of marijuana. Rotolo is now charged with manslaughter and DUI of drugs, but proving impairment for Marijuana may be difficult in court.

“Science has not figured out a way to accurately determine if someone is impaired based on marijuana,” said Allen Sawyer.

Sawyer is a defense attorney. He says prosecutors are at a disadvantage because of a lack of information.

“It’s great for defense attorney’s actually because the gray area is where we live,” explained Sawyer.

Marijuana impacts people differently and can stay in a person’s system for days or weeks without affecting their day to day abilities.

In speaking with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office in general terms about marijuana DUI cases and not related to this specific case, Assistant DA Rod Norgaard said:

“We really have to look for things like bad driving or really bad field sobriety tests to show the level of impairment necessary for conviction.”

He says in any marijuana DUI case, winning over a judge or jury is a huge challenge.

“That’s the bottom line with our legal system,” said Norgaard, “we have to prove that impairment.”

Right Now, researchers at UC San Diego are working to shore up the field sobriety tests for marijuana related incidents.

As for Rotolo’s case, until science catches up, CHP officers will have to rely on the keen eye of the Drug Recognition Evaluators to prove impairment in court.

More from Drew Bollea
Comments

One Comment

  1. Throughout our nation all automobile accidents with fatalities require full spectrum blood toxicology by law for all drivers involved. This toxicology testing reveals all the intoxicants in the drivers blood stream such as alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs and cannabis. The toxicology data is kept and compiled by police agencies who publish the results in an effort to promote public safety. Let’s see what they have found on a national basis in the USA.

    According to police data automobile drivers intoxicated on alcohol are on average directly responsible for over 16,000 traffic fatalities per year in the United States.

    According to police data automobile drivers intoxicated on pharmaceutical drugs are on average directly responsible for over 5,000 traffic fatalities per year in the United States.

    Data on fatal accidents caused by cannabis intoxication is extremely rare by comparison to prescription drugs and alcohol. I have searched thoroughly and can’t find one single police agency in the United States that even keeps a statistical database on traffic fatalities caused “solely” by cannabis intoxication. In a search of news articles published over the last 5 years I have found 3 cases where cannabis intoxication has been cited as the direct sole cause of a fatal accident.

    According to data acquired through news articles automobile drivers intoxicated on cannabis are on average directly responsible for 0.6 traffic fatalities per year in the United States.

    By comparison of police and available data on alcohol, prescription drugs and cannabis, which is safer??

    1. Using your idiot love of pot to justify a murder, heh? You potheads make me sick.
      Someone died because of your filthy lifestyle.

  2. My pothead neighbor smokes his filth on the front porch. My window closest to him, is covered with layer after layer of pot ash from his smoking. The glass and the wooden sill are just nasty, as if someone shoveled dirt on them.

    I bet the insides of his lungs look the same way. The hacking coughs of this millennial tells me he’s killing his lungs.

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