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Teen could get 16 years for fatal crash because of first-time pot use two weeks prior

Teen pleads in crash that killed 3 | | Journal and Courier

A Crawfordsville teenager has admitted to smoking marijuana about two weeks before causing a two-vehicle crash a year ago that killed two of his classmates and an Indianapolis woman.

Tyler R. Sutton, 18, pleaded guilty this morning in Tippecanoe Superior Court 2 to three counts of operating a vehicle with a controlled substance causing death and feticide, all Class C felonies.

If Judge Thomas Busch accepts Sutton’s plea with the Tippecanoe County prosecutor’s office, at least two of those counts would have to be served concurrently – meaning the former North Montgomery High School student could spend up to 16 years in prison.

Toxicology tests taken after the crash showed that Sutton had marijuana metabolites in his blood, though Sutton’s Indianapolis-based attorney, Dennis Zahn, disputed in court that the drug was present in the teen’s urine.

Indiana law requires only that narcotic metabolites be present to establish impaired driving.

Though Sutton also admitted to smoking marijuana, he said today that it was his first and only time.

The teenager was 17 years old at the time of crash, but juvenile court Judge Loretta Rush waived him to adult court in March.

Indiana is one of the states with a per se DUID statute.  In layman’s terms, that means if you test positive for any drug metabolite, you’ve been driving impaired in the eyes of the law.  That’s metabolites, not the actual drug, as would be the case with someone failing an alcohol breathalyzer.

In the case of marijuana, inactive, non-impairing marijuana metabolites can remain detectable in one’s system for weeks.  Tyler Sutton was no more an impaired driver than any other sober driver on the road; he just had the misfortune to smoke a joint a couple of weeks prior to the wreck

These insane per se statutes that count metabolites as impairment essentially mean that anyone who smokes marijuana in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or Georgia and then drives anytime within the next few days (for light, occasional tokers) to up to a month and a half (for chronic tokers like me) is as guilty of a DUI as a drunk who blows over .08 BAC on a breathalyzer.

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