The Problem of Inactive Metabolites

According to a police crash reconstructionist, Lafayette resident Stephanie Shrock was reaching for a cup of coffee when she lost control of her vehicle. Ms. Shrock drove off the roadway into a grassy median, overcorrected, crossed the median, and struck a northbound vehicle head-on, killing the driver. Nothing at the scene indicated foul play, and this may well have been a tragic accident. Ms. Shrock’s lab tests, however, confirmed the presence of THC metabolites in both her blood and urine. This changes everything. The full story is available through Fox59.

Under Indiana’s DUI / OVWI statute, “A person who operates a vehicle with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or schedule II of I.C. 35-48-2 or its metabolite in the person’s body commits a Class C misdemeanor.” Metabolites are compounds produced from chemical changes of a psychoactive substance in the body, but they are not necessarily psychoactive themselves. Active metabolites in your body are usually accompanied by controlled substances and indicate that you’re currently intoxicated. Inactive metabolites indicate that you were intoxicated at some point in the past. The presence of inactive THC metabolites (which can remain in the body for weeks, sometimes even months) is the primary indicator of marijuana use in blood, urine or hair testing. Indiana law does not distinguish active from inactive metabolites.

The fact that Ms. Shrock’s blood allegedly showed evidence of THC strongly suggests that her metabolites were active and that she was indeed intoxicated at the time of the accident. The law, however, reaches people with detectable metabolites in their urine, even though these metabolites are mostly inactive and do not indicate intoxication. There are a number of variables that can affect how long THC metabolites remain in your body, and Indiana isn’t interested in any of them. If you smoked marijuana a couple weeks ago, and you get into a car accident today, you’d better hope there’s no reason for the police to order a blood or urine sample. If your test were to show the presence of inactive THC metabolites, you’d likely be charged with a Class C misdemeanor—even if you weren’t intoxicated and didn’t cause the collision. And if there is an accident with injury or death, the consequences can be increasingly more severe and punishable with up to 12 years in jail.

Attorney Marc Lopez knows it isn’t fair that the state can charge you under its intoxication statute even if you weren’t intoxicated. If you or a loved one has picked up a criminal charge based on the alleged presence of active or inactive metabolites, the attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm are here to help. Call us at (317) 632-3642.