A West Palm Beach man has been charged with the deaths of two people after causing a fatal accident while intoxicated. Authorities have charged Travon Mitchell with two counts of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and driving without a license. Mitchell was arrested almost immediately after the crash after leading police on a chase. However, the charges related to the DUI crash were not charged until almost a year later.
According to witnesses, a red Nissan Frontier pick-up ran a red light at an intersection. Police were able to confirm witness accounts from the nearby surveillance feed of a business. As Mitchell blew through the intersection, he struck a Honda Civic. The driver and passenger died before paramedics could reach the scene. When paramedics arrived, they said Mitchell was acting erratic and believed he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Tox reports showed that Mitchell had several drugs in his system, including methamphetamine. But does that mean he was high at the time of the accident?
Complexities involving drug intoxication
Several states already have or are in the midst of legalizing marijuana. Anyone who has ever taken a drug test before knows that of the several drugs these tests screen for, marijuana stays in your system the longest. Because it is fat-soluble, marijuana can stay in your system for up to a month for regular users. Older drug tests only sought to confirm that marijuana was in the driver’s system. That is precisely what the drug test used above showed. However, that doesn’t prove that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. It only proves he was intoxicated within the couple of weeks that amphetamines are detectable in your system after use.
In the past, it didn’t really matter. If someone was involved in an accident for which they were clearly at fault and drugs showed up in their system, the prosecution need only present that evidence to a jury. Today with legalization, there are methods that allow police to detect marijuana that has been recently ingested. This prevents prosecutors from charging regular marijuana users with DUI when they’re not driving high.
So testing positive in states that have banned the use of marijuana is much different than getting caught in states where marijuana is illegal.
A case study
California was the first state to legalize marijuana and so we have precedents emerging from that state. In one case, a driver who was injured in a tractor-trailer collision filed a lawsuit against the company. The company argued the man should share the blame for the accident because he tested positive for marijuana. The plaintiff had smoked within 36 hours of the accident. The defense presented an expert witness that stated the plaintiff was still intoxicated. But the testimony was excluded because there were several factors that were unknown including the THC concentration of the marijuana and more.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with DUI based on marijuana impairment, the burden of proof on the prosecution is high (no pun intended). Call the West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.