Even if you are not stoned, you can lose your license in Maine if you are convicted of DUI marijuana, also known as DUI weed. Maine drug law says that if there is probable cause to believe you are under the influence of some drug, and you show a positive test for a drug metabolite in your urine or hair tests, your driver’s license will be suspended.
The problem with this marijuana impaired driving law is threefold.
First, probable cause is a very low standard of proof. It isn’t even proof that something is more likely than not, it is a mere suspicion based on observed facts. How little proof is required? The case of State v. Webster, 2000 ME 115, the defendant made an illegal U-turn. When police stopped him he denied any recent drinking, but the officer smelled alcohol on his breath. The officer then gave Webster field sobriety tests which he PASSED. Despite passing the tests, Webster was arrested. His breath tested at a .10% alcohol.
Webster filed a motion to suppress the evidence for a lack of probable cause. The court denied the motion stating that the illegal (but not erratic) driving together with the smell of alcohol and Webster’s denial of recent drinking, was probable cause to arrest him. When he appealed the Maine Supreme Court said the arrest was OK because: “The probable cause standard for requiring a person to take a blood alcohol test [or to arrest them] has a very low threshold.”
When I tell lawyers in other states about this they simply do not believe me. I have to show them the case.
How Long Does Weed Stay in Your System?
The second problem is that the law does not distinguish between active metabolites and inactive metabolites. This is a big problem for marijuana users in a medical marijuana state. The primary active chemical in marijuana is delta-9 THC. That chemical rapidly breaks down into chemicals that do not affect you – they are called inactive THC metabolites. Inactive metabolites can stay in your system for days or even weeks after using marijuana.
So if you are stopped by the police for a traffic violation such as speeding, and your clothes smell of marijuana, they will ask if you have been smoking weed. When you tell them not for several hours and you are okay, they can still arrest you – even if you pass their tests. Then they will order a marijuana urine test that will show the presence of marijuana metabolites. Your license will be suspended if they find anything.
The minimum suspension is 150 days. If you refuse the urine test the minimum suspension is 275 days, so refusing is not a good choice, either.
The third problem is the type of test – urine. Urine tests say nothing about what is in your system and affecting you. By definition things in a urine sample have left your system. Urine is a history lesson. It can tell us that you used a drug in the past, but it can’t tell us if it is affecting you now.
If you live in Maine and think this marijuana and driving law is unfair you should contact your state legislator. Tell your legislator that 29-A MRSA sec.2453-A is a bad law. A better law would require a blood test that shows an active drug or active metabolite before a license can be suspended.
Is There a More Accurate Type of Marijuana Drug Test?
A company in California called Hound Labs has reportedly invented a marijuana breathalyzer that a police officer can use to get a marijuana breath test sample right after you are pulled over. The California company claims that their portable breath tester can distinguish between people who smoked a week ago, and those that smoked 2 hours ago. This bit of science dramatically decreases the drug “detection window” and will exonerate any driver who is not actively driving high. One day soon law enforcement agencies may issue both alcohol breathalyzers and marijuana breathalyzers to obtain damaging test results.