Tuesday, 16 April 2024

REGIONAL: Covelo man convicted of driving under influence of marijuana

MENDOCINO COUNTY – This week a Mendocino County jury convicted a Covelo man of driving under the influence of marijuana.


On Tuesday, following a two-day trial and 30 minutes of deliberation, a nine-woman, three-man jury found 28-year-old Lawrence Nye Jr. guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana, according to a report from Mendocino County District Attorney Meredith Lintott.


The jury also found true a special allegation of a prior conviction for driving under the influence, Lintott's office reported.


Judge Ronald Brown sentenced Nye to five years probation, 15 days in the Mendocino County Jail, fines and fees of $2,410, and the second offender driving under the influence class. In addition, Nye’s license will be suspended for two years.


Nye allegedly was seen smoking marijuana in his pickup as he drove north on Highway 101 near Ukiah. Lintott's report said another motorist called 911 and reported a driver who was smoking marijuana and who was all over the road.


California Highway Patrol dispatch put out an alert that included a description of the pickup and its license number, and a CHP unit responded from the scales at Ridgewood Summit and parked at the base of the grade a couple of miles south of Willits.


About 10 minutes later Nye drove by at over 70 miles per hour and the CHP followed him. Nye allegedly continued at more than 70 miles an hour as the road narrowed to two lanes and the speed limit changed from 65 mph to 55 mph.


Nye did not appear to see the CHP parked in plain sight next to the roadway as he went by, he did not see it pull in behind him and he did not see the red lights when the attempted to pull him over. It was only when all of the emergency lights were turned on that he noticed them. Nye yielded very suddenly, stopping from 70 miles an hour in only 200 feet.


When CHP officers contacted Nye there was a strong odor of burned marijuana in the pickup and on his breath. He failed the field sobriety tests and was arrested. An evaluation by a drug recognition expert confirmed that Nye was under the influence and too impaired to drive safely.


Lintott's office reported that marijuana DUI cases are more difficult than alcohol cases because scientific evidence has not been developed to show impairment based solely on certain levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive substance found in the marijuana plant – in the human body the way it can be proved with alcohol.


While a person with .08 percent of alcohol in their blood is presumed to be under the influence, there is no comparable standard for marijuana, according to the report.


Proof of impairment depends on objective symptoms and the driver’s behavior. A doctor's prescription or a medical marijuana recommendations is not a defense to driving under the influence – driving while impaired by any drug is against the law and it does not matter that the drug was approved by a doctor, according to the report.


The statement from Lintott's office said impaired drivers present a tremendous hazard to everyone, endangering other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, to name a few.


Lintott said her office is committed to keeping impaired drivers off the road and prosecuting anyone who drives while under the influence, and it does not matter if it is marijuana, alcohol or any other drug.


 

She said that this verdict proves that Mendocino County jurors likewise see the danger that impaired drivers present and drivers impaired by marijuana are no less dangerous than drivers impaired by alcohol or any other drug.

 

Deputy District Attorney Brian Newman prosecuted the case, while Deputy Public Defender Jessyca Hoagland represented Nye.


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