With the increase of medical marijuana cards in the State of Florida, a question often asked is whether I can get a DUI if I am legally taking marijuana for medical reasons. The answer is the same as it is for any controlled substance – yes. A police officer who lawfully stops your car and suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance can arrest you for DUI, even if you are taking your prescribed drugs legally. The question then becomes this: how can the State prove the charge?
First, you should be aware that Florida Law allows an officer who has lawfully arrested you for DUI to request a sample of your urine. This is the only way to prove that a person is impaired by a chemical or controlled substance when alcohol is not involved since a breath test cannot provide these results and blood tests are only obtained in limited circumstances.
Second, in addition to the standard roadside Field Sobriety Tests (Walk and Turn, One Leg Stand and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test), another evaluation can be done by an officer with special training. This is called a Drug Influence Evaluation and it includes additional tests such as: checking pulse, heart rate and blood pressure; doing a “dark room” evaluation for pupil size; checking for muscle rigidity and discoloration of mouth and nose. This will then be followed up with a request for a urine sample which they will use to confirm their suspicions about ingesting chemical substances.
Finally, law enforcement will use your own words against you. In order to confirm their suspicions, police will seek to elicit answers from you about what drugs you took. During the initial investigation, these answers may be admissible prior to reading you Miranda warnings as it is considered a portion of the investigation while you are not officially “in custody”. Any statement you make voluntarily after Miranda is read can also be used against you.
All of these portions of the police investigation can be challenged and are subject to nuances that may allow evidence to be suppressed or precluded at the time of trial. It is important to call an experience Pasco County DUI attorney to review your defenses.