Weed and Driving Okay?

DUI Stoned Driver

False Advertising?

If you want to avoid a car crash, trade a joint for that glass of wine. A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that drivers who used marijuana were at a significantly lower risk for a crash than drivers who used alcohol. After adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers with marijuana in their system were at about the same level of accident risk as those who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving. Apparently, weed and driving are okay.

Interestingly enough antidepressants, pain killers, stimulants and quite a few other legal and illegal drugs do not significantly increase the risk of being in a crash. Alcohol use greatly increases the likelihood of an accident even at modest blood concentrations. In fact, a blood alcohol concentration over 0.05 increases your odds of a wreck nearly seven fold.

The study’s findings underscore an important point: The measurable presence of THC (marijuana’s primary active ingredient) in a person’s system doesn’t correlate with impairment in the same way that blood alcohol concentration does.

The NHTSA study points out that “At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment.” There are many reasons why detectable drug presence doesn’t indicate impairment the way it does with alcohol. Most psychoactive drugs are chemically complex molecules whose absorption, action and elimination from the body are difficult to predict. Also, there are considerable differences that exist between individuals with regard to the rates with which these processes occur. Alcohol is more predictable. In heavy marijuana users, measurable amount of THC can be detected in the body days and even weeks after the last use, and long after any psychoactive effects remain. Washington Initiative 502, passed in 2012, set a legal limit at which the driver is automatically determined to be impaired at 5 of nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. However, this number tells us nothing about whether a person is impaired or fit to drive.

Money For Nuthin

seizure and forfeiture

What are you gonna do if I take your stuff?

What if cops could call you a drug dealer and take all the money you have in your pockets? To make things worse, what if you then had to prove that you’re not a drug dealer in order to get your money back? Sounds like theft, doesn’t it?! Unfortunately, cops “steal” money like this from innocent people every day using a process called “Civil Forfeiture”, or seizure and forfeiture.

Civil forfeiture is legal process where police take money and property – cash, cars, houses, etc. – from persons “suspected” of illegal activity even if those people are never charged with a crime. To get their possession back, the owner must prove that the stuff seized was not involved in any criminal activity. Because these cases are civil actions, property owners receive few if any of the protections that criminal defendants enjoy.

Civil forfeiture can be a powerful tool used against drug dealers, and other criminals. Unfortunately, there are serious temptations for cops. Most, if not all the property that is taken by the cops, stays with those police agencies. This gives agencies a direct financial incentive to “police for profit” by seizing and forfeiting as much property as possible.

In August of 2013, the federal government used civil forfeiture to obtain a secret warrant to seize Carole Hinder’s entire bank account—totaling nearly $33,000—even though she did nothing illegal. For 38 years, Ms. Hinder has owned and operated a restaurant that only accepts cash. She regularly made frequent deposits of less than $10,000. Federal law requires banks to report cash deposits larger than $10,000; the government thought she was deliberately making small deposits to evade the reporting requirement.  She’s still guilty until proven innocent, and fighting to get her money back.

Things got worse after 9/11 when the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways. Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to act more aggressively in searching for “suspicious” people, drugs and other contraband.

After stopping drivers for simple traffic infractions, law enforcement officers are asking drivers how much cash they have with them, and whether cops can search their cars, purses, pockets, etc. Too many drivers are afraid to say no.

Matt Lee was driving from Michigan to California to start a new job. He had $2,400 his dad had given him to get started. He was stopped in Nevada for a traffic infraction and asked how much money he had with him. Even though the officer performed a canine search of his car and found no drugs, he confiscated the money stating that it was to be used to purchase drugs. In Washington State, a 2001 Seattle Post Intelligencer article reported that one out of five people whose assets were seized, in one county in the state, were never charged with a crime.

Interestingly, there appears to be no limitations on how this seized money can be spent. The District Attorney’s Office in Worcester County, Massachusetts purchased a Zamboni while the Montgomery County, Texas District Attorney’s Office used the funds to purchase kegs of beer, crown royal and a margarita machine for an office party.

If your money or property has been seized, you can trust the experienced former prosecutors and experienced seizure attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates to do everything possible to get your property back for you. Call today!

~ Martha McLaughlin, Sr. Associate