Pubdate: Wed, 03 Aug 2005
Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)
Copyright: 2005 Watertown Daily Times
Author: Ed Perkins
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


A decision by Watertown City Court Judge James C. Harberson Jr.
published this week in the New York Law Journal found that a trained
drug recognition expert was not needed to arrest someone for driving
under the influence of marijuana, among other issues.

Judge Harberson refused to dismiss a case against Derek J. Dwyer, 19,
Dexter, who was charged Feb. 11 in the 400 block of West Mullin Street
with driving while ability impaired by drugs, unlicensed operation and
failure to stop for a red light and stop signs. The charges against
Mr. Dwyer are still pending in City Court.

The defense tried to have at least some charges dropped over the lack
of a drug recognition expert, lack of probable cause, speedy trial and
paperwork issues. Judge Harberson tossed the bid.

According to the judge's decision, city police noted a strong smell of
marijuana coming from the vehicle. Mr. Dwyer handed over a baggie of
marijuana and then failed four-field sobriety test. Preliminary tests
showed the drug was marijuana, and he admitted smoking marijuana
earlier in the day.

Judge Harberson ruled police has probable cause to stop Mr. Dwyer's
vehicle and arrest him, and that there was no need for an drug
recognition expert to prepare a report. In any event, Judge Harberson
said in his ruling, Officer Christine E. McCarthy testified she was
trained to identify the drug and signs of impairment from using it.

The judge went even further.

"This court finds that considering the rampant use of marijuana in all
levels of society as a result of an unrelenting effort of the
'Woodstock' generation's proselytizing the legalization of this 'ditch
weed' - as it was historically known in the South - through the media,
the educational institutions and open public use, the average lay
witness can be said to be competent to identify marijuana and its
effects," Judge Harberson said in his decision.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin