Recently, Ohio decisionmakers further simplified the medical marijuana process. Already, medical marijuana was available for a wide range of conditions. The new Ohio Board of Pharmacy changes ensure that more products will be available to people who need it.

These changes might have some collateral effects, mostly in terms of the number of “stoned” drivers in Montgomery County. Already, marijuana accounts for the vast majority of DUI drug charges in Ohio. The relaxation of some restrictions might drive this number even higher.

It might be legal to use marijuana for medical reasons in Ohio, but it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. Since DUI has both direct and collateral consequences, it is important to work with a Centerville criminal defense lawyer in order to successfully resolve these charges.

The Stoned Driving Law in Ohio

Most DUI cases involve Breathalyzer or other chemical tests. Currently, these tests are usually only available for alcohol use. Blood, urine, and other tests can detect drug use. But according to the Supreme Court, officers must obtain search warrants in these situations. Most law enforcement divisions do not bother with warrants in DUI cases.

A marijuana Breathalyzer might be available soon. But for now, prosecutors must rely on 4511.19(1)(a), which is operating a vehicle “under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them.”

Proving Drugged Driving Cases in Court

Generally, people are operating a vehicle if they are sitting in the driver’s seat and the vehicle is driveable. The vehicle does not need to be in motion, and in fact, the defendant need not even be awake. The “drug of abuse” category includes most illegal street drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, most prescription drugs, including Oxycontin and Xanax, and many over-the-counter drugs, such as Sominex or NyQuil. 

“Under the influence” is usually the biggest issue in a stoned driving case. Since a chemical test is usually unavailable, prosecutors must rely on circumstantial evidence. That normally means the three approve Field Sobriety Tests, which are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Drug use causes nystagmus (lazy eye), or involuntary pupil movements at certain viewing angles. Then again, a childhood brain injury or a genetic condition causes a lot more nystagmus cases than drug use.
  • One-Leg Stand: People with any mobility impairment usually cannot balance on one foot, whether they are drunk or sober. 
  • Walk and Turn: The heel-to-toe walk has so many moving parts that it is almost impossible to pass. Environmental factors significantly affect this test as well. For example, it is very difficult to walk a straight line when a squad car’s strobe lights are flashing near the defendant’s face.

Many prosecutors summon Drug Recognition Experts to the stand in an attempt to make flimsy circumstantial evidence more compelling. Frequently, however, these “experts” are only police officers who attended a police-sponsored seminar.

If the evidence is at all weak, a Centerville criminal defense lawyer can usually resolve the charges successfully. That resolution could be a dismissal, a not guilty trial verdict, or a plea to a lesser included offense.

Work with an Assertive Lawyer

Stoned driving charges do not always hold up in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Centerville criminal defense attorney, contact the Comunale Law Office. We routinely handle matters in Montgomery County and nearby jurisdictions.