Attitudes and laws are changing when it comes to marijuana. Last year, Missouri legalized medicinal use of the controlled substance, and other states have pushed for decriminalization and legalization in varying degrees.
The drug’s use is more socially acceptable today than in the past, and people with certain medical conditions may use it to relieve pain. While it’s prevalence in society is undeniable, changing attitudes still do not mean that a marijuana user can drive a vehicle. Driving under the influence of alcohol, pot, or a prescription from a doctor leads to legal trouble.
Breath tests and blood draws
One key difference between drugged driving and drunk driving is that a breath test can measure how alcohol a person drank, but it cannot measure a drug like marijuana. Instead, officers rely on field sobriety tests or blood tests for intoxication proof. The Supreme Court has ruled that breath tests are legal, but a blood draw requires a warrant.
A new innovation is that many states are using e-warrants to get a blood sample of suspected drivers. In the past, a warrant required paperwork and a judge’s approval. An e-warrant is closer to an email. An officer sends it to the judge while the driver is still pulled over at the side of the road. What used to take hours now takes minutes.
Digging a little deeper
Technology speeds things up, but any new technology has its own problems. Faster isn’t always better. Police officers are not medical professionals.
One concern is that the side of the road is hardly a sterile medical lab. The conditions may contaminate the results, and they could even harm the suspect. Some states require certified training for officers who do this work. Even then, critics point out problems with the e-warrant system.
Another argument is that its convenience may lead judges to respond too quickly, without giving proper consideration. Much as people quickly click through user agreements or emails, judges may not be as invested in an e-warrant that pops into their inbox in the middle of the night. Civil rights are nothing to “click through.”
Some things never change
While e-warrants provide real, tangible benefits there are still many questions about how the program should work. It’s important to reduce accidents and save lives. But an arrest can change someone’s life. It’s essential that the evidence is accurate, and it’s equally important to protect a suspect’s rights through the entire process.