MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. - The man charged with driving under the influence of marijuana in a crash that killed his older brother appeared in court Monday, April 9.
The fatal crash happened on April 11, 2016 in Muskegon County near Casnovia. Michael O'Berry, 25, hit a semi-truck on Apple Avenue while driving on Trent Road. His older brother Nathan O'Berry died in the accident.
A urine sample confirmed a presence of active THC in Michael O'Berry's system, said Muskegon County Prosecutor Chief Trial Attorney Matt Roberts Monday. The felony charge for driving under the influence of a Schedule I controlled substance carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Drunk driving accidents took the lives of more than 10,000 people in 2016, a report by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. But "drugged driving" accidents are an increasing problem. And the National Institute of Drug Abuse said marijuana is the drug most-linked to impaired driving after alcohol.
In fact, driving on drugs was linked to more deaths in 2015 than driving drunk, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association and Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
In Michigan, an at-fault driver with any amount of a Schedule I drug, including marijuana, can be criminally charged like O'Berry. However, state courts have said if the driver is a medical marijuana cardholder, the prosecutors have to prove the driver was "impaired by the presence of marijuana in his [or her] body."
Some states have laws for marijuana-impaired driving set to a specific number of nanograms. Michigan needs to create a sliding scale system for marijuana-impaired driving legislation, or punishments will be unbalanced, said Andrew Rodenhouse, a criminal defense attorney at Rodenhouse Kuipers PC in Grand Rapids.
"If somebody doesn't feel the effects of THC...they pass the roadside sobriety tests, only to—later on—have blood results come back saying they had a de minimis amount...they will be prosecuted," Rodenhouse said.
O'Berry's preliminary examination was adjourned Monday and rescheduled to April 16 at 2 p.m. He is currently being held at the Kent County jail on a domestic charge.
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