WA high court: Drivers can get DUIs for driving while high
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state Supreme Court ruled Thursday people can be cited for driving under the influence for driving while high, a decision that upholds the state’s decade-old law regulating marijuana use behind the wheel of a car.
The Seattle Times reports all nine justices rejected Douglas Fraser’s argument that his 2017 DUI was based on an arbitrary and vague standard for THC levels in the blood. Although the justices acknowledged that the correlation between THC levels and impairment is challenging to pinpoint, they found that blood measurements nevertheless provide a useful and constitutionally acceptable measurement.
“Although this limit may not be perfect in terms of identifying degree of impairment for all individuals, it is reasonably and substantially related to recent consumption, which is related to impairment,” Justice G. Helen Whitener wrote in the court’s majority opinion, which was signed by her eight colleagues.
A Washington State Patrol trooper pulled over Fraser in July 2017 after seeing him speeding, driving alone in an HOV lane, changing lanes erratically and cutting off other drivers, according to the trooper.
When the trooper approached the car, he noticed Fraser was wearing an employee badge from a local cannabis dispensary, which Fraser then removed.
The trooper said Fraser was shaking, sweating and had dark circles under his eyes.
According to the trooper, Fraser said he had smoked “half a day” earlier but that he no longer felt impaired. After performing several field tests, the trooper arrested Fraser on suspicion of DUI.
A test later showed Fraser had a THC blood concentration of 9.4 nanograms per milliliter, with a margin of error of 2.5. That put his THC blood concentration above the state’s 5 ng/ml limit.
Fraser argued in court that the limit was not correlated to any real measure of impairment and was therefore arbitrary, vague and unconstitutional. He backed his opinion with testimony from a doctor who said the effect of a given level of THC can vary significantly from person to person, depending on body fat and frequency of cannabis use.