Hillsborough DUI officials: determining marijuana impairment com - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Hillsborough DUI officials: determining marijuana impairment complicated

Posted: Updated:
  • Hillsborough DUI officials: determining marijuana impairment complicatedMore>>

  • Supreme Court OKs medical marijuana for ballot

    Supreme Court OKs medical marijuana for ballot

    Friday, August 1 2014 4:17 PM EDT2014-08-01 20:17:05 GMT
    A Florida measure that would allow the use of medical marijuana has cleared its final hurdle and will be on the November ballot.
    A Florida measure that would allow the use of medical marijuana has cleared its final hurdle and will be on the November ballot.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Marijuana is currently legal in twenty states for medical purposes. There is a push to have the state of Florida join the group.

Advocates say marijuana has a variety of medical benefits. Law enforcement officers know it can also cause impairment.

Sergeant Troy Morgan is part of the DUI enforcement squad with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office. Sgt. Morgan says detecting marijuana impairment presents unique challenges.

"Marijuana or any narcotic of any type, whether it's marijuana or, you're not going to have the indicators that you would have with alcohol,"said Sgt. Morgan.

Video from a cruiser dashcam shows a deputy administering a field sobriety test to a man who had fallen asleep in his car in a parking lot.  The man admitted he had taken Xanax, and tests later showed he had also smoked marijuana.

Still Morgan and other law enforcement officers say they are trained, and have a variety of tests that can determine the level of impairment. Morgan says the difficulty is getting those cases to trial, and convincing a jury that someone is impaired after using marijuana.

"We cannot quantify the marijuana and or any other narcotic and which does make it difficult," said Sgt. Morgan.

In Florida a driver is considered to be legally impaired if they have a level of .08 of alcohol in their system at the time of arrest. There is no similar standard when it comes to marijuana.

"There is not a line in the sand with marijuana or any type of narcotic," said Sgt. Morgan.

Still Morgan says there are proven signs that show someone is an impaired driver, even if they have not been using alcohol.

"They are lethargic in their movements, fumbling fingers, eyes are glassy."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed a series of tests that are designed to test the level of impairment.

By now, many people are familiar with the test.

Drivers are asked to walk on a straight line, putting one foot in front of the other in a heel to toe move. Drivers are then asked to stand on one foot, holding the other foot off the ground for thirty seconds.

Coupled with other indicators, officers use these tests to determine if a driver is impaired and based on their observations, they can make an arrest.

In many cases, these tests and the interaction and conversations between the driver and officer are now recorded on video. The recordings can be used in court by prosecutors and the defense.

Sgt. Morgan says, it can be difficult to convince prosecutors to go after a DUI case, if the driver has only been smoking marijuana.

"In a lot of cases, not every case, but a lot of cases, because we cannot quantify the level of impairment or that was the substance that caused the impairment at that particular time, the case may not be filed on, or it could be reduced,"said Sergeant Morgan.

Defense attorney Jason Rogozinski says he would have a number of questions for a law enforcement officer in court who is testifying in a DUI case involving marijuana.

"Well my question would certainly be, well, when were they smoking marijuana? Was it now, was it ten days ago, was it 15 days ago, was it ten minutes ago," said Rogozinski.

Rogozinski says the same problem exists currently when someone is pulled over and they've been taking prescription drugs.

Rogozinski says if marijuana is legalized in Florida it may be difficult for law enforcement to prove someone is impaired at the moment they were seen driving, because marijuana can be detected in a person’s system for days or even weeks after they use it.

"I think that is one of the issues that is going to come up. How are they going to prove that they are under the influence of marijuana at the time of driving," said Rogozinski.

Sgt. Morgan says his officers will do what they are trained to do, and take impaired drivers off the streets to keep everyone else safe.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Woman says she bought tainted Hostess donettes at Sarasota gas station

    Woman says she bought tainted Hostess donettes at Sarasota gas station

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:33 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:33:29 GMT
    Everyone loves a good donut. But not the ones Jena Slinkard bought Thursday night at gas station in Sarasota. She just wanted a yummy, powdered donut late at night. So she bought a few packs, but when she bit into her normal favorite, Hostess Donettes, she spit it right out.
    Everyone loves a good donut. But not the ones Jena Slinkard bought Thursday night at gas station in Sarasota. She just wanted a yummy, powdered donut late at night. So she bought a few packs, but when she bit into her normal favorite, Hostess Donettes, she spit it right out.
  • Back-to-School Tax-free Holiday is here

    Back-to-School Tax-free Holiday is here

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:37 AM EDT2014-08-01 15:37:09 GMT
    It's almost time to head back to school and that means it's time to shop.
    It's almost time to head back to school and that means it's time to shop.
  • Tampa Bay woman feels ripped off, pays $61 for coins worth $1.50

    Tampa Bay woman feels ripped off, pays $61 for coins worth $1.50

    Thursday, July 31 2014 6:10 PM EDT2014-07-31 22:10:55 GMT
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins.Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins.
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins that have been sitting in a bank vault for years.With shipping, she paid $61.43. But, here's what she received: a bag of about 100 pennies, worth at most: $1.50.
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins that have been sitting in a bank vault for years.With shipping, she paid $61.43. But, here's what she received: a bag of about 100 pennies, worth at most: $1.50.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Body found near Polk search area for missing girl

    Body found near Polk search area for missing girl

    Friday, August 1 2014 9:53 PM EDT2014-08-02 01:53:38 GMT
    Alexandria Chery, 16, of OrlandoAlexandria Chery, 16, of Orlando
    A decomposed body has been found near the search area for a missing 16-year-old Orange County girl.
    A decomposed body has been found near the search area for a missing 16-year-old Orange County girl.
  • Tampa attorney says taking cover a part of life in Israel

    Tampa attorney says taking cover a part of life in Israel

    Friday, August 1 2014 8:56 PM EDT2014-08-02 00:56:30 GMT
    Today in Tampa, young and old, Christians and Jews gathered in Lykes Gaslight Square Park. About 200 of them showed their solidarity and support for Israel in its latest ongoing bloody battle with Hamas. One bay area man watched some of that battle up close. Tampa attorney Mark Wright watched the war unfold on television. Wright is Jewish-American, has friends in Israel and traveled to the Jewish state several times. He said he felt the need to go, to help....
    Today in Tampa, young and old, Christians and Jews gathered in Lykes Gaslight Square Park. About 200 of them showed their solidarity and support for Israel in its latest ongoing bloody battle with Hamas. One bay area man watched some of that battle up close. Tampa attorney Mark Wright watched the war unfold on television. Wright is Jewish-American, has friends in Israel and traveled to the Jewish state several times. He said he felt the need to go, to help....
  • No love for Lyft in the Tampa Bay area?

    No love for Lyft in the Tampa Bay area?

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:36 PM EDT2014-08-01 23:36:29 GMT
    Kevin Ludig feels like a rock star – he loves his job at Lyft that much.“You know I keep telling people I feel like a rock star because everyone keeps talking about what I do,” joked Kevin in his sleek Mercury MKS Hybrid. “I love this job.”Kevin uses his life at Lyft as a supplement to his work in solar panel sales.
    Kevin Ludig feels like a rock star – he loves his job at Lyft that much.“You know I keep telling people I feel like a rock star because everyone keeps talking about what I do,” joked Kevin in his sleek Mercury MKS Hybrid. “I love this job.”Kevin uses his life at Lyft as a supplement to his work in solar panel sales.
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by WorldNow

1430 East Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404

Telephone: 912.651.0300
Fax: 912.651.0320
Email: newsemailalert@wsav.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.