In 2012, Daniel Parish encountered a driver’s license safety checkpoint while driving on Luckney Road in Brandon, Mississippi. Officer James King of the Brandon Police Department was conducting the checkpoint, and he observed that Parish slowed down tremendously and did kind of a crawl roll to the checkpoint. King approached Parish’s car and asked to see his driver’s license.
Upon shining his flashlight in the car, King noticed that Parish had a green leafy substance all over his pants and some ash and he was really nervous. King suspected the leafy substance to be marijuana. King also smelled burnt marijuana on Parish’s breath and in the vehicle. Parish’s speech was slurred, and his eyes were red. King asked Parish if he had been drinking, and Parish responded in the negative. However, Parish admitted that he had smoked marijuana approximately twenty minutes prior to encountering the checkpoint.
King asked Parish if he had any marijuana in his possession. Parish initially stated that he had some marijuana in a backpack in his car, but he later clarified that he had only a hookah pipe. Parish gave Officer King consent to search the backpack, and Officer King found a hookah pipe inside. The pipe smelled of burnt marijuana.
King performed a horizontal-gaze nystagmus test on Parish. King did not observe any signs of impairment based on this test. Next, King conducted a lack-of-convergence test. Parish’s eyes failed to converge during this test. Finally, King administered the Romberg Balance Test, which judges the subject’s ability to perceive the passage of time. Parish tested within the normal range for judging the passage of time, but he exhibited eyelid and leg tremors while performing the test. After administering these tests, and after considering Parish’s dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, and slurred speech, King came to the conclusion that Parish had been driving under the influence of marijuana.
At that point, King placed Parish under arrest. Parish consented to having his blood drawn for testing, so King transported him to Crossgates River Oaks Hospital. Parish’s blood and the hookah pipe both tested positive for marijuana.
Parish was charged under Section 63-11-30(1)(b), which prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while “under the influence of any other substance which has impaired such person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle,” and Section 63-11- 30(1)(d), which prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while “under the influence of any drug or controlled substance, the possession of which is unlawful under the Mississippi Controlled Substances Law. Miss. Code Ann. § 63-11-30(1)(b),(d) (Rev. 2013).
Parish admitted that he and his friends had been smoking marijuana from a hookah pipe but denied telling King that he had smoked marijuana twenty minutes before reaching the checkpoint.
He was convicted of DUI, first offense, and sentenced to 48 hours. On appeal, he argued he was not driving under the influence of marijuana. MSC affirmed.
Parish was convicted of violating Section 63-11-30(1)(d) of the Mississippi Code, which provides, “It is unlawful for any person to drive or otherwise operate a vehicle within this state who . . . is under the influence of any drug or controlled substance, the possession of which is unlawful under the Mississippi Controlled Substances Law.” Miss. Code Ann. § 63-11-30(1)(d) (Rev. 2013).
In Leuer, we found that the phrase “under the influence” is commonly understood to mean “driving in a state of intoxication that lessens a person’s normal ability for clarity and control.”
At trial, Parish conceded that he had smoked marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance, on the night of his arrest. However, Parish argues that the State was required to present proof that his ability to operate his vehicle was impaired by his consumption of marijuana.
This court has had few occasions to consider the sufficiency of a DUI conviction involving marijuana. However, the MCOA has considered this issue on several occasions.
For example, in Weil, the defendant was driving through a driver’s license checkpoint when the arresting officer smelled the odor of burnt marijuana coming from his vehicle. The defendant admitted that he had smoked marijuana prior to driving. After asking the defendant to exit his vehicle, the officer testified that the defendant had bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, slurred speech, and poor balance, all of which were signs that the defendant was under the influence of marijuana. MCOA affirmed the defendant’s conviction, finding that the State had presented sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
Similarly, in Beal, the defendant was pulled over for driving eighty-seven miles per hour in a fifty-five-miles-per-hour zone and admitted to smoking marijuna earlier in the day. The officer observed that the defendant’s eyes were bloodshot, red and very glazy. The officer did not perform any field sobriety tests on the defendant, nor did he procure a sample of the defendant’s blood or urine for testing. MCOA affirmed the defendant’s conviction, finding that the evidence is such that a reasonable fact-finder could have found Beal guilty of first-offense D.U.I.
We find that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence that Parish was driving under the influence of marijuana. King testified that Parish approached the checkpoint at a crawl. Upon approaching Parish’s vehicle, King also observed that Parish had dilated pupils, reddened eyes, and slurred speech. In addition, Parish exhibited eyelid and leg tremors while performing the Romberg test.
Parish’s blood tests revealed the presence of active metabolites for marijuana, meaning he was still experiencing the pharmacological effects of the drug even after he was arrested. Finally, Parish admitted to smoking marijuana twenty minutes prior to encountering King. This evidence was sufficient to prove not only that Parish had ingested marijuana before driving, but that he was driving in a state of intoxication that lessens a person’s normal ability for clarity and control.