Worth a listen is a recent episode of the NPR show, All Things Considered. The interviews and commentary provide a great outline of the current issues facing police and prosecutors with regards to testing for marijuana impairment. In a prior related piece, NPR explained Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the issues surrounding how it interacts with the human body, as well as differences between how THC appears in the bloodstream when smoked versus when it is ingested orally.
Using findings which come from a nationwide analysis of the drinking behavior of 530,000 repeat DUI offenders monitored every 30 minutes for alcohol consumption, data shows that drinking violations by repeat drunk drivers ordered to stay sober jump an average of 22 percent nationwide on Super Bowl Sunday, compared to the usual violation rates on a Sunday. More information on the study is available here.
How can police testify about field sobriety tests when scientists have not reached a consensus on their reliability? That is the question Justice Geraldine S. Hines of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court put to prosecutors in the case against Thomas Gerhardt. In February of 2013, a trooper detected the odor of burnt marijuana inside the Gerhardt's vehicle after he had been legally pulled over. Gerhardt acknowledged there were “a couple of roaches” in the ashtray. He later told the trooper that he had smoked about a gram of marijuana three hours beforehand. During the stop, Gerhardt performed field sobriety tests. He successfully recited the alphabet, and counted numbers backward. He showed no signs of involuntary jerking or bouncing in the eyes when asked to follow a slow moving object like a pen or flashlight horizontally, symptoms that officers look for during roadside tests. But Gerhardt performed poorly when asked to stand on one leg and take nine steps in a straight line and turn, leading the trooper to conclude that he was impaired and under the influence of marijuana, court papers said. During a search of Gerhardt’s vehicle, police said they found roaches and a marijuana stem. Gerhardt argues that a police officer’s assessment of whether a driver safely operated a motor vehicle cannot stand alone when marijuana use is suspected. We will keep readers posted on the court's final decision.
This fact sheet provided by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) summarizes the national results of the 2016 USA Road Safety Monitor on alcohol impaired driving. This survey of 5,050 US drivers provides a general overview of the choices made by drivers as relates to drinking and driving, as well as current statistics on impaired driving. Their conclusions and recommendations are available here.
Upcoming Traffic Seminar in Savannah, Ga. March 6-8, 2017
Judge Mary Celeste would like to share with you an exciting Traffic Seminar sponsored by the ABA National Conference of Specialized Court Judges to be held in Savannah, Ga. March 6-8, 2017. This Seminar will bring many topics of interest including but not limited to Fourth Amendment Issues in Traffic Related Cases; A Closer Look at Research and DUI Investigations; The Legal History, Neuroscience and Toxicology of Marijuana; Seven Drug Categories of the World; and, Innovation in the Courtroom: How Problem-Solving Courts Impact Impaired Driving. Please share this e-mail with all of judges on your bench and your judicial district who may work with impaired driving or traffic cases. There are some scholarships available. If you have any questions or need more information feel free to contact Judge Mary Celeste at firstname.lastname@example.org or Judge Mary Jane Knisely, (email@example.com). Please visit the website for more details at: www.ambar.org/2017trafficseminar.
Upcoming Courses at the National Judicial College
The following courses are offered by the NJC in Reno, Nevada in the coming months. A limited number of scholarships are available through generous funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Please contact Katheryn Yetter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-327-8269 for more information.
Impaired Driving Case Essentials (May 8-11; Reno, NV) This course provides you with an overview of sentencing practices and evidence-based options for impaired driving traffic offenses including those committed by younger drivers, older drivers, and hardcore DUI defendants. After this course, you will be able to analyze circumstances providing a legal basis for stops, searches, seizures, arrests, and the admissibility of testimonial or physical evidence.
Drugs in America Today: What Every Judge Needs to Know (May 17-19; Atlanta, GA) With opiate addiction at epidemic levels in both urban and rural America, the NJC has crafted a new course that focuses on the neurology of addiction with an emphasis on heroin and painkillers. This course will provide an in-depth analysis of the science behind addiction and will offer practical solutions for the judge to manage all case types affected by drug use.
Behind the Wheel: Today’s Traffic Offender (Oct 23-26; Reno, NV) The arena of traffic-related offenses is constantly evolving. Statistically, driving while under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol will be an issue that will appear with more frequency in traffic courts around the country. This course will delve into several issues that judges who hear traffic cases will experience this year, as well as offer insight into case issues and strategies from the prospective of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the law enforcement officer, and the treatment provider. The course will also offer in- depth insight on how roadside drug detection is done as well as how the 12-step DRE protocol is conducted. Additionally, the course will offer a demonstration on the various types of drug and alcohol detection equipment that is available and the reliability of the instruments.
Properly and Effectively Adjudicating Drugged Drivers starting October 30 and finishing up December 8 (online course) Unlike alcohol-impaired driving, drugged driving has fewer tools in the field to detect impairment and concentration levels in the body. Drugged driving cases require a judge to utilize a variety of judicial tools to effectively adjudicate these cases. In addition to the ability to determine which kinds of drugs an individual may be using, it is important to know how these drugs affect the individual and their ability to operate a vehicle. It is also imperative that a judge knows how to effectively craft sentences, which include treatment options, in order to provide a participant with the most beneficial mode of recovery.
NCSC Traffic Resource Center
The Traffic Resource Center is a cooperative effort between the Department of Transportation and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to establish a resource for judges, court administrators, court clerks, and other court staff on issues related to traffic adjudication. It is an integrated clearinghouse of information as well as a training and technical assistance resource to improve court decision-making and processing of traffic cases involving impaired driving, drugged driving, distracted driving, and commercial driving. The purpose of the Traffic Resource Center website is to provide a useful, ready reference for judges new to the bench or recently assigned to traffic cases, who may need quick access to accurate and timely information until they can receive more formal, structured education.
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