Articles Posted in Drug DUI

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Recreational marijuana became legal in the state of California on January 1, 2018—but “recreational use” does not include smoking it in the car. As the Mercury News points out,  a new state law makes it officially illegal for drivers and passengers alike to smoke weed in vehicles—just one attempt to curb what officials fear will be an upsurge in drug-related DUI in the wake of legalized pot.

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Frontal lobe – Human brain in x-ray view

Some users might be tempted to view marijuana as a “grey area” drug when it comes to driving. After all, THC, the substance in weed that makes you high, is difficult to measure in the body, and in fact it can remain detectible in your blood stream for days after you use it, making it even more difficult to measure. However, make no mistake: Multiple studies have shown that marijuana use has a significant impact on people’s ability to drive safely, and that pot in your system increases your risk of getting into an accident. Furthermore, no matter how difficult it is to measure how much THC is in your system or when it got there, if an officer suspects you’re impaired while driving, he can arrest you based on that suspicion. In fact, as the law mentioned above states, you can be arrested for smoking it in a car even if you’re a passenger.

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On January 1, 2018, California officially became the eighth state to legalize cannabis for recreational use—a move that USA Today pCalifornia-marijuana-DUI-los-angeles-300x197redicts will cause an economic “gold rush” in the state worth up to $5.1 billion in its first year. While you shouldn’t expect the Los Angeles smog in general to suddenly take on a familiar pungent smell, don’t be surprised to see a few more “superstores” popping up on your way to work. You may also need to be a bit more wary of other drivers on the roadways, as law enforcement officials have expressed concerns about the possibility of more accidents caused by impaired drivers. (More on that point in a moment.)

That all being said, if you plan to take advantage of legalized pot, you should understand that the new California marijuana laws don’t add up to a free-for-all for partakers and enthusiasts. Let’s look at some of the more important caveats you should keep in mind.

There’s a Limit to What You Can Carry

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As a rule, DUIs in Los Angeles involve motor vehicles moving on interstates, highways and local roads—in other words, on dry land. But with the ocean close by, some law enforcement officers in Los Angeles County also have to deal with intoxicated boaters who pose a danger to themselves and to others on the water. These stories from other states demonstrate the kind of toll that BUIs can take:BUI-in-los-angeles

•    In South Carolina, around 6 a.m. on July 7th, police arrested Cynthia Lynn Averitt for boating under the influence on Lake Wylie. A few hours later they pulled the body of Kenneth Varandore, a passenger on the boat, from the lake. Police reported that Varandore apparently jumped into the water and never resurfaced.

•    A 43-foot fishing vessel smashed into a slip at Aurora Harbor in Juneau, Alaska, around noon on June 6th. Darrin Hess, age 51, was at the wheel of the Nor’Gale when it hit several boats and then caused significant damage to the harbor’s main float. Police charged Hess with driving under the influence and with refusing a breath test.

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A driver might be very happy when a judge reduces a charge of DUI in Los Angeles to a lesser charge, like wet reckless. But getting intoxicated and driving down a busy main street is not a good way to celebrate. Just ask 18-year-old Lucas Brandenberg of Knoxville, Tennessee. He’d likely be in less trouble today if he had found a quieter and less dangerous way to express his satisfaction with the outcome of his court case.knoxville-DUI

On Thursday, June 14th, Brandenberg appeared in a court in Knox County, where Judge Scott Shipplett accepted a plea deal that reduced a DUI charge against him to reckless driving. (Another judge, Stephen Mathers, had initially rejected the plea deal, but Brandenburg’s case ended up in Shipset’s courtroom.)

Around 2 a.m. on the morning of Friday, June 15th, police responded to calls about a pickup truck driving through Knoxville with two occupants throwing beer cans out the window. Officers tried to intercept the truck, but it blew through a red light and then led them on a chase through another town. The officers eventually found the vehicle abandoned and Brandenburg hiding in a nearby shed. (They never caught the vehicle’s second occupant.) But the police did discover several illegal and prescription drugs as well as illegal drug paraphernalia in the truck.

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Police officers are accustomed to finding illegal drugs, guns or open alcohol containers when they arrest someone for a DUI in Los Angeles. But few start out investigating a DUI-related crash and end up with a gruesome homicide case.dui-los-angeles-lightpole-death

On the evening of June 27th, officers in Anchorage, Alaska, responded to the scene of what appeared to be a crash involving a DUI. Benjamin Wilkins, 34, had run his vehicle into a light pole. He was next to the car and talking into a cellphone. After some conversation with him, officers arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs.

The website JuneauEmpire.com reports that police were waiting for a tow truck when they looked in the back seat of Wilkin’s car. They saw what they thought was a sleeping passenger, but when they took a closer look they found the bound and beaten body of 30-year old Jacqueline Goodwin.

Police eventually went to Wilkins’ home, where they found a multitude of illegal drugs, including heroin, mushrooms, methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs. Further investigation led them to believe that Wilkins had killed Goodwin in the basement of the home and then enlisted the assistance of his mother, Jacqueline Stefano, and his brother, Connor Stefano, in cleaning up the scene of the crime and helping Wilkins move the woman’s body to his car.

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