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Marijuana Breathalyzer and How it Works

When a person gets stopped for suspected impaired driving in California, the police officer subjects them to various field sobriety tests. These tests are aimed at establishing if the motorist is impaired. A preliminary breathalyzer test is administered to check the alcohol level in their blood. Driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol is an offense in California. Unfortunately, no field tests can show the amount of Marijuana in a motorist’s blood. It has also not been established what amount of Marijuana in the system causes impaired driving.

The legalization of Marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes has made it difficult for law enforcement officers to control intoxicated driving. However, when suspected of marijuana intoxication, a chemical test will be carried out that will confirm it, leading to DUI charges against you. If you are faced with these charges, getting a DUI attorney to defend you is crucial. If in Los Angeles, Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney can fight these allegations on your behalf.

Why a Marijuana Breathalyzer

When a person is arrested for drunk driving, a breathalyzer test is administered that shows the level of alcohol in their blood. The law has also gone ahead to determine what levels are illegal to have while driving.

In comparison, intoxication by Marijuana while driving is also considered an offense in California. Unfortunately, no device shows the level of intoxication and what amount of intoxication is illegal. When one is suspected to be intoxicated by Marijuana or other drugs, a chemical test that involves a blood sample, hair, or urine is used. Unfortunately, these tests cannot be carried out in the field.

Although these tests are carried out to determine the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they only show the suspect recently inhaled Marijuana, but not that they are currently intoxicated. This becomes a challenge in convicting a driver for drugged driving. The developers of this device claim that it will show if the person is intoxicated, and not just the amount of THC they have.

The Science of a Marijuana Breathalyzer and How it Works

For many years, researchers have been trying to develop a marijuana breathalyzer similar to that of detecting alcohol. However, detecting THC molecules from a breath sample has been difficult. Additionally, there is no guideline for the amount of intoxication that proves impairment. Regardless of this, scientists now claim to have the ideal device that will help detect THC impairment or intoxication.

In developing this breathalyzer, carbon nanotubes were used. These carbon tubes are microscopic, said to be 100,000 times tinier than a human hair. Human breath has multiple molecules, including those of THC, if one has inhaled Marijuana. These molecules attach themselves to the nanotube surface and alter their electrical properties.

The recovery of these electrical currents is at different speeds that help determine the presence of THC in the breath. Nanotechnology sensors, according to researchers, can sense the level of THC just like mass spectrometry, if not better. This is the best detection available for THC and believed to be the gold standard for its discovery.

According to scientists, the technology of using semiconductor carbon nanotubes is relatively new. The breathalyzer device is taught how to detect THC according to the recovery time of electrical currents. The technology is said to be so advanced that even when a person’s breath has other substances such as alcohol, THC presence is still detectable.

The researchers wanted to create a device that can be used in the field as a marijuana breathalyzer. The device resembles the alcohol breathalyzer with a protruding plastic mouthpiece. A digital display on the device shows the results from the breath sample.

Similar to how an alcohol breathalyzer test gets administered in the field, a marijuana breathalyzer will be done the same way. If an officer suspects that Marijuana intoxicates you, he or she will be able to test if you are high before arresting you. This is easier compared to when a person had to be arrested, and chemical tests would be performed. If a person is found not to be high on Marijuana or intoxicated by alcohol, their time will not be wasted but will be let go and carry on with their duties.

When will the Marijuana Breathalyzer be used on a Driver?

The legalization of Marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes has seen more people take advantage of the fact and get behind the wheel while high. This behavior not only endangers their lives but those of others as well. Law enforcement officers have the task of ensuring the public is safe from these drivers.

Drivers high or impaired by Marijuana pose the same risks as those intoxicated by alcohol or narcotics. Scientists say that the smoking of Marijuana impairs the cognitive function of a person, as well as their ability to make decisions. When they are faced with an emergency on the road, their reaction time is slowed compared to drivers not high.

For a long time, police have been using observation to determine if Marijuana impairs a driver before they decide to arrest them and carry out more tests. However, before administering the marijuana breathalyzer test, the police will still observe the driver to identify the following signs:

  • The odor or smell of Marijuana on the driver or in the car
  • If the driver has slurred speech
  • If the driver’s eyes appear glassy
  • If the eyes are bloodshot
  • The speed of their motor skills. If their movement is slow, it may mean they are high on Marijuana
  • If the driver is moving at a slower pace on the road than it is normal
  • The police officers are also trained to check if the driver’s cognitive function is impaired
  • Erratic driving pattern. While some drivers can be very slow, others may display recklessness on the road

When the police notice a driver has some of the above signs and is not high on alcohol, they automatically assume Marijuana or other drugs. Usually, the police would arrest such a driver and take them to the station where further tests will be carried out.

Fortunately, with the unveiling of the marijuana breathalyzer that is used in field tests, the police will be more confident of intoxication before making an arrest.

Benefits of a Marijuana Breathalyzer

Just like the many advantages of an alcohol breathalyzer, a marijuana breathalyzer has many advantages both to the law enforcement officers and the driver’s arrested for intoxication.

The standard tests a suspected Marijuana intoxicated driver is subjected to involve the drawing of blood, urine, or hair samples. When the tests are carried out on these samples, if the driver uses Marijuana, the tests will show the presence of THC. Unfortunately, the tests do not indicate whether the driver is currently intoxicated or not.

This means a driver can be wrongly charged for driving under the influence when they are not currently intoxicated. THC compounds stay in the person’s body for prolonged periods, hence the reason they are detected through the chemical tests.

The Marijuana breathalyzer promises, among other things, to detect if the driver is currently intoxicated. If the driver is not presently intoxicated even when he or she has traces of THC in their system, they cannot be charged with a DUI offense. This is beneficial to the driver because he or she will escape wrongful prosecution that may lead to a wrongful conviction.

The law enforcement officers, as well as the public, will also benefit from having a marijuana breathalyzer. Keeping the roads clear of intoxicated or impaired drivers from Marijuana will help save lives and prevent other road users from the dangers of impaired driving.

A marijuana breathalyzer will also help convict more people charged with impaired driving while discouraging many from getting behind the wheel intoxicated. Before the breathalyzer, a defendant would argue that at the time of arrest, they were not intoxicated. The prosecution would find it difficult to prove they were intoxicated while driving because the police relied on observing some signs.

As earlier stated, THC compounds remain in the system for extended periods making it impossible to prove the actual time the defendant was intoxicated. A reasonable defense attorney will argue their client’s case based on this fact and get them acquitted of the offense.

The excellent news with marijuana breathalyzer to law enforcement officers is that they will now be able to provide evidence that the driver was intoxicated when the arrest occurred. This will also result in more convictions where many individuals got acquitted due to the lack of evidence. The public will also be safer when the roads are cleared of Marijuana-intoxicated drivers.

In California, when you are arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, chemical tests will be administered. If you decline to submit to them, you will automatically suffer consequences with DMV. When you are tested for THC in your blood or hair, and the compounds are found, you will be charged with a DUI offense.

Unfortunately, at this point, the arresting officer will take your driver’s license and send it to the DMV while issuing you with a temporary one. The DMV, after sending you a notice to suspend your license, you will be required to request a hearing, which many drivers lose. This may result in the suspension of your driver’s license, and in the case where you declined to submit to a chemical test, you will not be allowed to have a restricted driver’s license.

Unfortunately, when the court dismisses your case on a technicality such as you proving that you were intoxicated at the time of the arrest, the DMV will still retain the suspension of your license. The coming of a marijuana breathalyzer will be advantageous to the motorist in avoiding having their driver’s license suspended. If a motorist is found not to be intoxicated by Marijuana at the time of arrest, DUI charges may not be brought against them. Without these charges, they will not get their license suspended.

Challenges of the Marijuana Breathalyzer

Despite the excitement and the benefits of marijuana breathalyzer, various challenges arise. Scientists have not established what amount of THC in a person’s system correlates to impairment. The marijuana breathalyzer is designed to detect the levels of THC in a person’s breath. However, a person may have THC residues in their system. When the current inhalation adds to the THC residues in the blood, what would be the effect?

This becomes a challenge should the breathalyzer indicate low levels of THC in the breath, yet the system has more concentrated. Maybe the higher levels of THC in the system are what caused the driver to be impaired but because the results from the breathalyzer indicate low levels. This can hold that marijuana breathalyzer results are not an accurate indicator of impairment.

There is also the legal question of the amounts that are safe when one is driving. Before settling on the blood alcohol concentration levels, the courts in America took a long time. Marijuana breathalyzers are new, but the debate of what are safe levels may take a long time.

Without a clear legal framework of the acceptable levels of THC, the breathalyzer device may not work as it is well-intended.

The critics of the devices also claim that not enough research has been carried out on human beings to determine their accuracy. The critics further argue that there must be a proven ratio linking the THC amount from the breath to that in the blood. When this is established, the police can then know the exact time a person can be said to be intoxicated by Marijuana.

Despite the debate on the effectiveness of the marijuana breathalyzer, this is a device that its time has come. With more research, the device will be found to be more helpful to both the public and law enforcement officers. The legalization of Marijuana in various states, however, may help speed up the research. Additionally, police officers will require training on how to correctly use the device to ensure more convictions than acquittals due to technicalities.

Find a DUI Lawyer Near Me

Driving under the influence is an offense in California. When a person gets arrested for driving under the influence of Marijuana, they will face prosecution irrespective of whether it is for medicinal purposes. The challenge arises, however, when there is no precise measure of how much THC constitutes impaired driving. When you get arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, you may face wrongful prosecution that can result in a wrongful conviction. For this reason, you need an experienced DUI attorney to challenge the evidence against you.

Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney in Los Angeles, can defend you against these allegations and ensure a favorable outcome. Reach us at 323-464-6700, and let us defend you against the charges.

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Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney
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Los Angeles, CA 90028
323-464-6700