Field Sobriety Tests Lose Importance in OUI Marijuana Cases
Have you been stopped by police and charged with operating under the influence of marijuana? Did you participate in any field sobriety tests? If you have, then you must have wondered what your performance on the field sobriety tests has to do with whether or not you could safely operate a vehicle. Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court was asked that same question and their answer will have a huge impact on your case. Under Commonwealth v. Gerhardt, the SJC just made it ten times more difficult for the Commonwealth to prove their case against you.
As some of you may have experienced, if you are stopped by the police and they suspect you are operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, the police officer will usually ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests. Under Gerhardt, if you participate in the tests, police officers can no longer testify whether you passed or failed the tests but officers can still testify as to their observations of your performance such as failing to walk in a straight line.
The SJC decided that police officers can no longer testify that your performance on the field sobriety tests indicates you were impaired by marijuana and also decided that the jury must be told that they cannot find you guilty based solely on your performance. There now has to be other evidence against you other than your performance on the tests to convict you. This is very important because if the police officer cannot testify that you failed the tests and that your performance indicated you were impaired by marijuana, it will be much harder for the Commonwealth to prove you are guilty of driving a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
Even though this a terrific ruling, remember that the most important thing to do if you are stopped by the police will always be to refuse to participate in the field sobriety tests. If the officer asks you to perform the tests, politely decline! While the officer can no longer testify that you passed or failed the tests, the officer can still testify about what he observed so if you were stumbling or unable to follow directions, the officer can testify about it.
Lastly, always remember to never answer any questions asking you about your marijuana use. Use your right to remain silent! If you tell the police you just smoked marijuana whether 15 minutes ago or 15 hours ago, you will be arrested and charged. Do not volunteer information that will get you arrested. The less information you give to the police officer, the better our chances of winning at trial!