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Defense attorneys for a New York teenager who was the driver in an accident that killed four other teens in his vehicle had difficult facts to work with at trial.  The young man, who was 17 years old when the accident occurred, did not dispute the fact that he was high on marijuana at the time.  He also did not dispute that he was driving at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour when he lost control of his vehicle.

But the attorneys for the defense used expert testimony to support their argument that because teen was a habitual, or “chronic” pot smoker, he had effectively built up a tolerance to the drug, causing fewer adverse effects to cognitive abilities such as driving.  Given that fact, the crash was an accident caused by excessive speeds rather than drug impairment, the defense claimed.

In this case, four deaths caused by reckless driving would likely result in a lighter sentence than a cause of DUI involving marijuana.

Groups who advocate tougher laws against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are up in arms about the defense strategy. One victim of a drugged driver believes that the argument sends a terrible message: the more marijuana you use, the less likely that you are to be convicted of driving under the influence. 

Whatever the outcome, this case illustrates the fact that even those who admit to crimes such as driving under the influence and reckless driving may have mitigating circumstances that would affect their legal defense.

Source: CBS New York, "Controversial 'pot defense' rocks Long Island impaired driving case," May 29, 2014

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