Interviewer: What do Police Officers typically look for when someone is driving around and they end up getting a motor vehicle related DUI?
Sam Sachs: The number one thing is either they see it or paraphernalia in plain view or they smell it having been burnt. There are some Police Officers that will say “I smelled raw marijuana.” I have trouble accepting that very easily, but sometimes they say there was a smell of raw marijuana, in other words un-burnt marijuana when I approached the vehicle. I think dogs can sniff it out. I don’t know if police can, but it’s usually the odor of burnt marijuana, someone smoking a joint, and they get pulled over, or they have smoked a joint, or they see a roach in an ashtray and that’s the first tip of prior use.
Some Police Officers are Trained as Drug Recognition Experts or DREs
The signs of marijuana intoxication, if you are under the influence of marijuana, are obvious. We all know that people slow down a little bit and pupils dilate. Police Officers are trained to recognize that and there are also some specially trained police officers that have special training that’s called Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training. Because of a course that they take, they believe that they are trained to be able to recognize whether someone is under the influence of many drugs, including marijuana. I don’t agree, but that’s a long subject. The scientific reliability of a DRE has never been tested in a New Jersey Court.
The Amount of Marijuana in the Car May Determine the Different Charges Accrued with a DUI
Interviewer: With marijuana, does it matter the amount of marijuana someone had in the car?
Sam Sachs: In New Jersey, the amount of marijuana they have in a car may lead to different criminal charges, but being under the influence of marijuana depends on how the defendant looks and acts. They will give them a urine test to see if they’re positive for marijuana. Marijuana is an interesting drug to detect in the human body because the metabolites of marijuana, conventionally, are thought to stay in the human body for up to 30 days. There is some new evidence, especially in obese people, that it could stay even longer than that 45 or 60 days.
The Presence of Metabolites in the System is Used to Prove that the Defendant was Stoned
If you’re at a party and even if you didn’t smoke, but you inhaled large amounts of the second hand smoke or you had a joint 3 weeks ago, if an officer stops you and accuses you of being under the influence of marijuana when you exhibit some of the symptoms, maybe because you’re tired, or for other reasons. They will take a urine sample and it will usually show up positive for metabolites. They don’t quantify, in New Jersey, what the quantity is. All they know is there are metabolites of marijuana in your system and that means, at some point, you had it and now they’re going to try and make a case based on that even though it was weeks before. It hangs around for a long time in your system or at least the metabolites are present for a long time even when the effects don’t, but they’re going to try to prove the case circumstantially. They will say that “well he looked like he was stoned and he had metabolites in his system, so he must have been stoned.”