Tom (not client’s real name) had worked a full day and was taking a friend home that evening when he was pulled over for his tail light not working properly. The short video of Tom driving before the stop showed no traffic violations. Tom used his turn signals and stopped safely. However, the police officer stated he had a suspicion that Tom was driving impaired possibly from the introduction of drugs, alcohol, or a combination thereof.
The officer stated he did not smell marijuana or alcohol. However, the officer stated his reactions to his questions implied he was impaired. Tom was asked to exit the vehicle and perform Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) despite the fact that the SFSTs are only validated for alcohol intoxication. The officer stated that he saw no intoxication clues from the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. Tom was unable to complete the SFSTs of the Walk and Turn (WAT) and the One Leg Stand (OLS) successfully and was arrested. High winds were heard and seen on the video recording of the SFSTs. Tom attempted to explain he was tired from working all day and he admitted to smoking marijuana, but much earlier in the day. The officer was still convinced Tom was intoxicated and placed him under arrest.
After the arrest a blood draw was taken. The results showed active THC and the THC metabolite in Tom’s system. Additionally, the cocaine metabolite was also present in the blood draw analysis.
At trial the State called two analysts from DPS Austin. Both analysts were asked from the results of the blood test if the they could tell the jury that Tom was intoxicated at the time of driving. They could not. Also, they were asked if the metabolites had any effect on the human body and the both stated they had no effect. Additionally, the analysts were asked about recent studies of the affects of marijuana use on driving and crash risks. Both analysts stated that recent studies did not show a significant increase in crash risks.
Weather reports were shown that gusts of winds during the SFSTs were up to 35mph.
It was argued that it was clear that Tom’s use of marijuana had not affected his ability to drive and that he was not intoxicated at the time of driving. Additionally, it was argued that the metabolites of marijuana and cocaine did not have any effect on the human body. Lastly, it was argued that the environmental conditions of high winds and Tom being tired from the long work day were the reasons he was unable to complete the SFSTs successfully.
The jury was back in 45 minutes with a Not Guilty verdict.
Trial Counsel: Douglas Huff