Do Arizona Officers Use a Marijuana Field Sobriety Test?

marijuana field sobriety test Nowadays, it seems like the general public is just as interested in marijuana as alcohol.  There is a general assumption one can get away with driving while enjoying a marijuana high simply because Arizona police breathalyzers are designed to test for the presence of alcohol.  However, Arizona police are legally permitted to conduct field sobriety tests as well as blood tests.  If it appears as though a driver is under the influence of marijuana or another drug, that driver might face some serious consequences.

Arizona Field Sobriety Tests and Marijuana

The overarching question is whether Arizona field sobriety tests can identify a driver who is high on marijuana or another drug.  In short, the answer is a resounding “No.”  Field sobriety tests are used to gauge the driver’s fine motor skills and ability to make decisions.  These tests zero in on the driver’s balance, coordination and reactions as well as a comprehensive assessment of his or her mental state.

Psychological tests can be administered during the stop.  As an example, the police officer can request the driver to recite the alphabet or even recite the alphabet backward.  However, even those who are not high on marijuana sometimes struggle to recite the alphabet backward so there are some fundamental flaws to sobriety testing.

The issue with the attempt to test drivers for marijuana use is the effects of marijuana are not the same for each person.  Some people smoke copious amounts of marijuana with regularity so they might not act stereotypically high when subjected to field sobriety tests.  Furthermore, some marijuana smokers are experts at concealing their high, making it challenging if not impossible for an Arizona police officer to determine whether he or she is high based on observation and/or field sobriety tests.  Sadly, most of those pulled over by a police officer are nervous to the point that they might appear high even though they are completely sober.

Marijuana Detection Tests are on Their Way

The ubiquity of marijuana across Arizona, the entire United States and beyond has spurred police departments to pursue marijuana detection testing.  Though it is possible to detect the presence of marijuana in a driver’s system with a blood test, it is not practical to administer a blood test at the side of the road.  The bottom line is a blood test is the sole means of determining if a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana at the moment.

As we move forward into a high-tech future in which marijuana is socially accepted, special swabs will likely be used to test for the presence of the psychoactive component of marijuana known as THC.  In fact, such swab tests might be in use before the end of the year.  This approach to testing analyzes the saliva of the driver to determine if he or she is under the influence of marijuana.  However, the initial versions of saliva swab tests are not completely reliable at this point in time.

Signs a Driver is High on Marijuana

As noted above, it is nearly impossible for an Arizona police officer to be 100 percent certain a driver is high based on sobriety field tests.  Blood tests are the most effective means of identifying marijuana impairment yet they are not practical.   Instead, Arizona police officers rely on observation to pull over drivers suspected of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana.  Arizona police officers key in on swerving, erratic behavior and speeding when attempting to identify high and/or drunk drivers.  Police also zero in on driver responses when probed following a stop.

Above all, police will rely on their sense of smell to determine if marijuana was used in the vehicle or if the plant’s odor is on the breath of the driver.  Even glossy or red eyes are a sign the driver is high or drunk.  Such facts combined with damning results provided by a field sobriety test really can constitute probable cause for the driver’s arrest.  Once taken into custody, the driver might be subjected to a blood test and/or a breathalyzer.

Find out about the effects of alcohol on driving.