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Marijuana DUI: Justin Bieber’s Confession

by | Jan 24, 2014

The recent DUI arrest of Justin Bieber in Florida has inevitably sparked global headlines because the singer is famous (or infamous, depending on your source).

Aside from details like Bieber was driving a Lamborghini and off-duty officers may have escorted the teen to strip clubs without authorization earlier that night, the case reflects a lot off the same issues that D.C. DUI defense lawyers see regularly in first-time DUI cases.

One of those pertains to alleged marijuana intoxication.

This has been something of particular interest throughout the U.S. following the passage of laws in both Colorado and Washington that legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Some 20 other states as well as the District, have approved the substance for medicinal purposes only.

All of this has given rise to intense debate about what marijuana intoxication is, how on-scene police officers can determine it and what threshold of proof prosecutors must have to win a conviction.

In D.C., marijuana intoxication is essentially no different than alcohol intoxication when it comes to DUI.

While some debate whether marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol in terms of use by drivers, the bottom line is that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any substance, legal or otherwise.

The key difference when we’re talking about marijuana intoxication versus alcohol intoxication is how it is proven. A person’s level of alcohol intoxication is typically tested by some combination of a breathalyzer or blood test and field sobriety tests. A blood test tends to be the most accurate form of measurement, offering authorities an idea of how much alcohol-by-volume a person has in his or her blood.

Generally, when a person’s blood-alcohol level exceeds the 0.08 percent mark, it’s probably a fair statement that the alcohol consumption was fairly recent.

However, the same cannot be said when it comes to marijuana intoxication. Because marijuana takes longer for the body to process, it may be present in the blood for days or even weeks after consumption. Particularly in cases where a person is a heavy user (for example, a medical marijuana patient), a person’s blood-THC volume may be deemed “high,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean the driver was intoxicated at the time of the stop.

Field sobriety tests are frequently used, but these are largely subjective measures of intoxication.

So another powerful indicator is the confession of the driver.

In Bieber’s case, he reportedly made statements to the officer indicating that he had consumed marijuana immediately prior to getting behind the wheel of that car. There is no indication officers were specifically looking for evidence of marijuana intoxication, so Bieber’s statement served only to hurt his own defense.

Still, even marijuana DUI cases in which the defendant has offered a confession are not necessarily un-winnable. There is always the possibility that the confession wasn’t obtained appropriately or that it may not be enough in and of itself to prove intoxication.

Anyone arrested on suspicion of marijuana DUI in D.C. should seek the advice of an experienced defense lawyer.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.