A recent decision by the Arizona Supreme Court may provide persuasive analysis for driving under the influence of drugs charges throughout the country, including Rhode Island. The issue decided by the AZ Supreme Court involved the application of the AZ DUI Law to an individual whose blood tests revealed the presence of an inactive metabolite known as "carboxy-THC" which can linger in the blood stream for up to one month after smoking. The substance that produces a high is known as "hydroxy-THC" which is broken down by the body into the "carboxy-THC". The AZ Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the AZ DUI Law prohibited the operation of a motor vehicle while the active metabolite "hydroxy-THC" was present in an individual's system".
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA IN RHODE ISLAND
The issue decided by the AZ Supreme Court has not been addressed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Rhode Island's DUI Statute
prohibits operation of a motor vehicle "while under the influence" of a scheduled drug and operation of a motor vehicle "with a blood presence of any scheduled controlled substance" as shown by blood or urine evidence. It is this second part of the statute that could be impacted by the reasoning of the AZ Supreme Court ruling.
In handling RI Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Charges, I have seen that different Judges handle these cases differently. Most Judges and prosecutors lack a significant amount of experience and knowledge with respect to these charges and analysis of blood test results in driving under the influence of marijuana charges. With this lack of experience comes a misinterpretation of the blood test results. When the Rhode Island Department of Health tests blood in a DUI case it reports marijuana levels for both "carboxy-THC" and "hydroxy-THC". Without proper knowledge and analysis, most would assume that either would be sufficient to prosecute a Rhode Island DUI case.
A CONVICTION FOR DUI OF MARIJUANA IN RHODE ISLAND SHOULD REQUIRE BLOOD EVIDENCE FOR THE PRESENCE OF HYDROXY-THC
Utilizing the logic and analysis of the AZ Supreme Court, a conviction for driving under the influence of marijuana in Rhode Island should require, at a minimum, the blood presence of "hydroxy-THC" and the presence of "carboxy-THC" should not be sufficient to sustain a conviction.
A conviction for DUI of marijuana without a blood test indicating "hydroxy-THC" would "create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver's system or whether it has any impairing effect." The Rhode Island Court's should adopt the conclusion of the AZ Supreme Court and find that the legislature must have meant that any amount of the impairing hydroxy-THC was a criminal act, not the substance that lingers in the blood stream for thirty days.
The Law Offices of Matthew T. Marin, Esquire, Inc.