Operating Under the Influence of Marijuana and Field Sobriety Testing
A Review of Commonwealth v. Thomas J. Gerhardt
In the recent decision, the Supreme Judicial Court made a decision regarding the Admissibility of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in cases involving a police officer’s suspicion of a driver that is operating under the influence of marijuana. The decision reached by Review of Commonwealth v. Thomas J. Gerhardt answers the following questions. Commonwealth v. Gerhardt, SJC-11967, slip op. at 9 (Mass. Sep. 19, 2017).
May a police officer testify to the administration and results of standard field sobriety tests in prosecutions for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) Marijuana, as they do in OUI Alcohol prosecutions?
Short Answer: No
Officers may only testify to the administration of “road side assessments”
Lack of scientific agreement on the results of the standardized field sobriety test for impairment does not make them irrelevant, though the relevance threshold is very low. at 13.
There is no doubt that an officer can testify to his or her observations, such as the driver’s appearance, demeanor, odors that are relevant to impairment.
Field Sobriety Tests CANNOT BE TREATED AS SCIENTIFIC TESTS that establish impairment as a result of marijuana consumption. The test should neither be treated as a definitive test of impairment nor should it be excluded from the entirety by the finder of facts. at 15.
A Police Officer need not be qualified as an expert. Tests can be admitted without satisfying the Daubert-Lanigan requirements.
The Officer cannot suggest that the defendant was under the influence of marijuana due to their performance on the field sobriety tests and cannot say the defendant PASSED or FAILED. at 16.
Must be made clear under all circumstances to the fact […]