Sprint Car Driver “Impaired” by Marijuana When Killed

Opponents of legalization often point to public safety as a reason to continue to enforce laws against recreational use. Whether you are a marijuana advocate or against legalization, cases involving driving under the influence are critical to the debate. According to recent reports, the sprint car driver, Kevin Ward Jr., was under the influence of marijuana when he was struck and killed by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. The recent toxicology report sheds new light on the case, casting doubt on the actions of the victim and releasing the driver from any culpability.
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In any accident case that results in a casualty, law enforcement officials will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause and identify responsible parties. Our Orange County marijuana attorneys are experienced in all angles of marijuana law, from regulatory and compliance issues through criminal defense. In addition to staying abreast of local and state developments in marijuana law, we also stay current on changing marijuana laws by state at the federal level.

Ontario County District Attorney, Michael Tantillo released a statement that the driver who was struck and killed was under the influence of marijuana. The statement also indicated that the marijuana levels were high enough to impair judgment. Since this finding, the criminal investigation has been ceased, though the family likely intends to pursue civil remedies for the wrongful death of their son. It is likely that the marijuana use will also be used as defense evidence in the civil matter.

The accident occurred at an August 9, 2014 race when the victim gestured angrily at Tony Stewart’s car and stepped in front of the vehicle. He died of blunt force trauma as a result of the impact with the vehicle. Prior to the toxicology report, there were two charges submitted for consideration by the grand jury. He was facing charges of manslaughter in the second degree as well as criminally negligent homicide. Neither charge got the necessary votes from the grand jury to sustain criminal charges. According to the district attorney, the grand jury heard evidence for two days prior to making a final decision not to charge the driver in this case.

Driving under the influence (DUI) and marijuana levels are hotly debated, both in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, as well as those where it is legal for medical marijuana use, and in states where all marijuana use is prohibited. While officers can quickly ascertain blood alcohol levels, it is more difficult to determine levels of marijuana use and at what point a driver may be considered “under the influence.” If you or someone you love has been arrested or charged with driving under the influence it is important to consult with an experienced advocate. Marijuana card holders who are charged in California or out of state may have additional defenses available. Remember that local, state and federal marijuana laws are complicated and vary widely. Charges and penalties will also vary, depending on the facts of your case, whether there was an accident, injury, or other aggravating circumstances.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

More Blog Entries:
Getting Started in the Medical Marijuana Industry, May 15, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog
Colorado Pot Seized by U.S. Postal Service on the Rise, September 22, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog