Over past years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been successful in getting legislation passed across the country criminalizing the presence of a largely arbitrary level of alcohol in a driver’s blood.
Whereas previously the drunk driving laws made it illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, the new ones didn’t care about impairment but simply made it a crime to have a blood-alcohol level of .08% or higher. It didn’t matter if a given driver had higher than average tolerance to alcohol; whether a citizen was impaired and a danger or not was no longer relevant. The crime was the presence of alcohol in the body.
This, of course, made it much easier to prosecute and convict citizens of drunk driving — even if they weren’t "drunk".
Now that strategy is increasingly being adopted by states for the offense of "driving while stoned" — that is, driving while under the influence of marijuana. As with alcohol, it is more difficult to prove that a citizen’s driving ability is impaired by marijuana than it is to prove that there is an arbitrary amount of it in his body.
Solution: criminalize the presence of a given amount of cannabis in the blood. Of course, there is little scientific consensus as to what levels of marijuana cause driving impairment. But the result will be more arrests, prosecutions — and more unimpaired drivers convicted.
"The ends justify the means", right?
Colorado Senate Gives Initial OK to Stoned-Driving Limits
Denver, CO. May 2 – The Colorado Senate Tuesday gave initial approval to a bill making it easier to convict people of driving while stoned, in the toughest test yet for the proposal…
The measure, Senate Bill 117, would set a limit of THC — the psychoactive chemical in marijuana — in the blood above which it would be illegal to drive. King said numerous studies suggest that the large majority of people with more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood are impaired.
[Bill sponsor Steve] King said the bill is needed to stem what appears to be an increase in stoned driving in Colorado. Drivers whose blood tested positive for THC at the state toxicology lab have increased from a couple hundred in 2009 to more than 1,000 last year, King said…
Opponents say that research isn’t conclusive that everybody is stoned at 5 ng and that the bill would result in sober drivers being convicted. Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, called the bill, "a shortcut on burden of proof." Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said state law already makes it illegal to drive while stoned — including for those drivers who are impaired at less than 5 ng.
"I would prefer to stick with current law, where the question of impairment is put to a jury and where evidence of someone’s conduct is presented in court," Steadman said.
Steadman said the bill would hurt medical-marijuana patients who regularly use marijuana and may have higher baseline levels of THC in their blood.
But King said the bill sends an important message that driving high is not OK.
"What I’m saying is, you can’t get high and drive," King said. "It has an impact on the rest of us. You can smoke and wait. You can smoke and walk. You can smoke and find a ride. But you cannot smoke and drive."
Fourteen other states have laws creating a THC limit for driving — laws that are known as "per se" laws. Several other states have zero-tolerance driving laws for THC.
Notice the focus of the law in the opening line of the story: "a bill making it easier to convict people". Not a bill to reduce casualties on the highways. Not a bill to punish criminals. No, a bill making it easier to convict citizens.
The great legal scholar Blackstone famously stated back in the 1760s: "Better that ten guilty guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". That revered old legal principle has been reversed in DUI cases..
The concept goes back even further — much further. From Genesis 18:23-32 of the Bible:
Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are in it? What if ten are found there?". He [The Lord] said, "I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake".
The dragnet approach to justice. Yet another example of what I have termed "The DUI Exception to the Constitution".