Monday 16 September 2019

Driver banned over 'month old' joint

A Wexford man has been banned from driving for four years after cannabis was found in his system following a minor car crash, despite him saying that it could only have been the remnants of a joint he smoked about a month earlier.

Before Wexford District Court on January 20 was Clive Cullen (31), 101 Liam Mellows Park, charged with driving while under the influence of an intoxicant at Begerin, New Ross, on November 19, 2013.

Garda John Rochford told how he and a colleague were on duty in a patrol car when they got a report of a suspected drink driver at Carrickbyrne.

They were making their way there when a car matching the description they had been given passed them in the other direction. They turned around to follow it, and some thirty seconds later, they saw it spin into the ditch and come to a halt.

The driver, Clive Cullen, said at the scene that he had drunk half a glass of wine and smoked cannabis.

He was brought to New Ross Garda Station, where he gave a blood sample. The alcohol reading was below the legal limit, but the sample also showed evidence of cannabis use.

Cullen admitted he had been a heavy drug user in the past, but said he had since gotten treatment for those problems.

He had last smoked cannabis in mid-October of 2013, about a month before the crash, after being released from hospital following an assault that was itself related to his drug use. Smoking that joint was to help him calm his nerves, but he then decided at that point that enough was enough, and he wanted to get clear of drugs.

He had mentioned cannabis use to the garda only because he knew that he was going to have to provide a blood sample for suspected drink driving, and he also knew from earlier testing during his treatment that traces of the drug can remain in the system for long periods of time, so it was likely that cannabis would show up in this test. He said it had previously taken up to 13 weeks for his urine analysis tests to show up clear after drug use. Therefore, when he mentioned cannabis to the garda, he did not mean that he had smoked any immediately prior to driving that day.

Solicitor Siobhan Dunne pointed out that the blood sample analysis just showed there had been cannabis use. It did not give an indication of how much.

'Whether there was just a trace, or whether you spent the whole day smoking, the result would be the same,' she said.

Inspector Derek Hughes submitted the amount of cannabis was irrelevant, as the Garda evidence was that Cullen was not in control of his vehicle. Ms Dunne replied it was 'taking things much too far' to suggest that smoking a joint today would affect your driving a month from now.

Judge John Coughlan chose to convict, and he handed down a fine of €180 along with the four-year ban.

Recognisances were fixed for the event of an appeal.

Wexford People