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Are roadside tests admissible in marijuana impairment cases

In our last post, we highlighted the inherent problems in proving marijuana impairment during a traditional DWI stop. Essentially, police are not yet equipped to scientifically determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana, and roadside sobriety tests geared towards detecting alcohol impairment could not properly reach those conclusions.

In fact, the Massachusetts Supreme Court recently determined that roadside tests were not conclusive proof of marijuana impairment. The court ruled that while there is clear scientific evidence that the tests could be used to measure the level of alcohol impairment, no such evidence existed to prove marijuana impairment. 

The court addressed the issue while answering the question of whether field sobriety tests could be used in marijuana impairment cases. It reasoned that such evidence could still be admitted but would be subject to restrictions.

Specifically, the sobriety tests would be referred to “roadside assessments” that do not result in whether a driver “passed” or “failed,” thereby suggesting guilt. Instead, the assessments can be used to evaluate a driver’s balance, coordination and mental facilities necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Indeed, the court’s ruling may not have a direct influence on criminal charges brought in Illinois, but it exemplifies the need to have experienced legal counsel when accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Roadside sobriety tests are sometimes given improperly, and law enforcement may draw conclusions not supported by science and circumstance.

If you have questions about your legal rights and options regarding marijuana impairment charges, a skilled lawyer can advise you.

The preceding is not legal advice. 

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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