Connecticut Drug DUI FAQs: In The Field


How is a Marijuana DUI Detected?

In Connecticut, a marijuana DUI is usually detected by the odor of marijuana. Oftentimes in alcohol DUI cases, the police will say that they smell the odor of alcohol. The police may do the same thing if they suspect that you are under the influence of marijuana. They can say that they smell the odor of marijuana and use that to pull somebody out of the car for a marijuana DUI investigation. Under the law, a marijuana odor should not rise to the level of probable cause to allow them to search the vehicle. However, police officers are very smart. The statute doesn’t say anything about the odor of burned marijuana. So I suspect we will see lots and lots of reports saying that there was an odor of burned marijuana in the car, and as a result that the police officer suspected a marijuana DUI. That may begin the search of your car and an arrest for marijuana DUI. 

What Constitutes a Drug DUI Stop? 

Drug DUI stops all start from the same premise, which is that a person is operating their motor vehicle without the caution characteristic of a sober person under the same or similar circumstances. It’s only after the police officer pulls the car over, usually suspecting alcohol, that they start to suspect the use of drugs. That may come from speaking to the passenger or operator of the vehicle, noticing the state of the car, smelling an odor of marijuana, etc. They put together all of these clues, and from there they investigate it either as an alcohol DUI or a drug DUI. If they suspect a drug DUI, they call in their drug recognition experts to continue with the examination in the field. 

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What are Marijuana Field Sobriety Tests?

The marijuana field sobriety tests that you may be subjected to if the police suspect that you are driving under the influence of marijuana start with the same three tests that they use to determine alcohol impairment. There are other tests in addition to that. However, keep in mind that in April 2021, the United States Department of Justice issued a report that said that field tests used for alcohol are useless for the determination of impairment by marijuana. If your judge or prosecutor doesn’t know this, it is important for them to get this report and understand the limits of these testes. A good defense lawyer can help them understand why standardized field sobriety tests don’t apply to drug DUIs.

What is a DRE?

A DRE is a police officer with extra training in the area of drug abuse. After they go through their initial training, an advanced course called “A Ride,” and then the DRE certification, they can say to a court and to the other police departments that they are an expert in the area of drug intoxication and drugged driving. Whether or not they actually are an expert is up for debate. They only have about 57 hours of training in the area of drug driving and 12 of those hours focus on the drug, eight focuses on how to write up a report. The question really becomes, do they have enough training to diagnose a person out in the field?

Implied consent is the law that means that you have given your consent for blood, breath, or urine testing if you’ve gotten behind the wheel and are driving in the state of Connecticut. It applies in alcohol and in drug DUI cases. When it comes to DUI cases, it means that the police can ask you for a breath sample to see if you’re under the influence of alcohol and if they suspect that you are under the influence of drugs, they can ask you for a urine test to see if you’re under the influence or have those metabolites in your system. Refusal to provide a sample when prompted is a violation of the implied consent law.

Can the Police Search My Vehicle If They Smell Marijuana?

The police can stop your vehicle, but the odor of marijuana does not give them rise to be able to search your vehicle. But the odor of burned marijuana may allow them to conduct a search because at that point they may suspect that you are under the influence. Connecticut law says that even a person riding in a car cannot smoke marijuana. So if you have a passenger who is smoking marijuana, that can lead to a marijuana DUI stop and arrest. 

What If a Passenger In My Car is Under the Influence?

If a passenger in your car is under the influence of marijuana, it matters if they entered the car high or got high in the vehicle. In Connecticut, it is illegal to consume any marijuana in any automobile, even if it’s parked. But if the passenger was under the influence of marijuana before they got into the car, they still might have the odor of marijuana about their body. If you get pulled over and a passenger in your car smells of burned marijuana, the police officers may ascribe that odor to you and use that for probably cause to get you out of the car and then arrest you for being under the influence of marijuana, if you don’t pass their field sobriety tests to their satisfaction. 

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