Researching Your Attorney – Why Credentials Matter

Deciding which attorney to hire is perhaps the biggest decision people face when defending themselves against criminal prosecution.  Hiring the right attorney may seem like a daunting task given the number of attorneys out there.  Many lawyers claim to be criminal defense attorneys, but also claim to practice family law, personal injury, estates and trusts, and virtually every other kind of law there is.  This is a red herring for, “I am not an expert in any one area, so I’ll try to do a little bit of everything”.  Other attorneys claim to do only criminal defense, but in all candor, don’t have a clue what they are doing and offer a cheap price tag to offset their deficiencies.  Hiring an attorney obviously falls into the “buyer beware” category, but there are things you can do to ensure that you’re hiring a criminal defense attorney who is competent, experienced, and will give you the strong defense for which you’re entitled.

RESEARCH YOUR ATTORNEY.  We can’t say it enough.  Just because someone is listed online claiming to be a criminal defense attorney by no means ensures that they know what they are doing in the courtroom.  Even more concerning are the lawyers who send you solicitation letters in the mail.  Someone who simply claims to do criminal defense is not the same as someone who does criminal defense well.  The key is to research the attorney before hiring and to look for certain credentials to ensure successful, competent representation.

CREDENTIALS TO LOOK FOR: There are many groups and so-called “awards” that attorneys can join or win by simply paying money.  Realistically, those are not awards at all.  Awards that are most credible are those that are peer nominated (ie. attorneys nominating attorneys for awards), followed by independent third party research, and then voted on by credentialed panels.  Awards that fall into this category include Superlawyers, Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Martindale-Hubbell, and Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

Additionally, certification and expertise in a specific area of law is a huge plus.  Although the Missouri Bar does not recognize outside certification organizations, and offer no specialty certification of its own, the National Board of Trial Advocacy offers certification in specialized areas of practice that are recognized by the American Bar Association.  For example, Criminal Trial Practice is a specialty area of certification that the NBTA offers and is recognized by the American Bar Association.  In order to be certified by NBTA to ensure specialized knowledge and experience in Criminal Trial Practice, an attorney must go through a rigorous application process, demonstrate adequate experience across dozens of key practice areas, and finally complete a bar style exam solely in criminal law.  It is a scary thought, but many people who practice criminal defense in Missouri likely could not pass this exam.  That is why certification by your attorney is something to look for to ensure competency and specialized knowledge to protect you against government prosecution.

IS THE ATTORNEY DEDICATED TO CRIMINAL DEFENSE?  Finally, one key in hiring a good criminal defense lawyer is to look for whether the attorney you hire is dedicated to his or her profession of criminal defense and to his or her clients.  Many defense attorneys tout the fact that they used to be prosecutors.  I’m not so sure this is a positive.  You want an attorney who is going to be loyal to you without the concern of them playing both sides.  Additionally, you want to see your attorney have specialized education in criminal defense and specific involvement in criminal defense only groups, such as the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  These organizations provide criminal defense specific training throughout the country to better equip defense lawyers for the rigors of providing the best representation possible for their clients.

Attorney Adam Woody has the among the most combined experience, credentials, and courtroom success of any criminal defense attorney in Southwest, Missouri.  He has never practiced any area of law other than criminal defense, and has been perfecting his craft for over a decade.  He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, as well as the National Criminal Defense College in Macon, Georgia.  He is a general member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the treasurer of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, an organization for which he is on track to be president of in two years.  He has been named to the Superlawyers Rising Stars list in 2016, he has won the Missouri Lawyers Weekly Up and Coming Attorney award in 2011, and he has been named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer in the country in 2013 through 2016.  He is board certified in the area of Criminal Trial Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and is the only attorney in Southwest, Missouri to achieve such specialty certification.  He has achieved an AV rating by the lawyer rating resource, Martindale-Hubbell, which indicates a Preeminent rating, the highest rating available, based on peer and client reviews and independent panelist research.  He is a member of the invitation only group, National College for DUI Defense, and he has received the same certification in standardized field sobriety testing as police officers receive in their academy.  Adam has achieved hundreds of dismissals for clients accused of crimes, as well as dozens of not guilty verdicts, including for the most egregious of charges such as first degree murder.  He is a criminal defense attorney who is dedicated to that profession alone, and he is ready to step into the courtroom and provide you the best defense available in the region.

When researching an attorney to determine whether you will get the most experienced, most competent, and most prepared defense available, look no further than attorney Adam Woody.  He’s ready to fight the battle with you as your advocate in the courtroom.

Understanding Vandalism Charges

The word vandalism spray painted on a cement wall

If you or a loved one is charged with vandalism in Missouri, whether it be tagging or graffiti or defacing property, the result can be serious charges and severe penalties. If damage resulting from the vandalism is bad enough, you can face steep fines, a criminal record, jail time and even time in state prison.

Many do not realize that parents of minors are financially responsible for the damage that their children cause.  Parents of minors charged with vandalism or tagging need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle their case.

Types of Vandalism
  • Carving into a piece of glass or wood such as a table, chair, desk or bench with a knife or any other tool
  • Breaking windows or doors
  • Tagging with markers or paint
  • Damaging somebody else’s property including mailboxes, cars, plants, lawn or other personal property with intent
Difference Between Misdemeanor & Felony Vandalism

For a person to be found guilty of vandalism prosecutors must prove that they maliciously intended to damage or deface personal property of another person.

Charges of Misdemeanor or Felony depend of the severity of the damage caused. Typically damage under the amount of $750 is considered a misdemeanor while damage of $750 and over is considered a felony.

Acts of vandalism will automatically be felonies if they are proved to be “hate crimes.”

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your case as well as help you get the best possible result in court. In some cases, your case may even be dropped if there is not enough evidence.

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Will People Be Able to See My Criminal Case Online?

Look, I get it, you are embarrassed about what you are going through. You do not want people to know about that DWI that you are dealing with. Or that Misdemeanor Assault. You do not want your employer to find out about it and you certainly do not want your mom finding it. So, will they see it?

Believe it or not this is a simple and complicated question at the same time. In the practice of law there are a lot of moving parts. Some of those moving parts are easy to predict and some are much more difficult. I am going to start with some broad statements that are generally true and then move into the specifics on what my experience has shown.

 

The first undeniable truth that you will need to accept is that we live in a digital age. Everything is recorded and placed on the web. Some things are easy to find and some things are very very hard to find, but they are out there. So, the first thing that you will need to consider is who is looking and how hard are they trying to find something. There is a FBI list called the NCIC. This is the National Crime Information Center which is a computerized database of documented criminal justice information available to virtually every law enforcement agency nationwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If a cop pulls you over, this is one of the things he or she is checking on back at their car. That list shows every arrest, plea and conviction on your record. So if you have been arrested for an assault on law enforcement officer in the past, even if that charge never went anywhere, the cop IS going to treat you different. But Grandma is going to have a hard time finding you on the NCIC.

 

The second issue is Casenet. You can find that here: Casenet. This is going to be where every person charged with a STATE offense will be shown. (example: State of Missouri v. John Doe). Whether it is a speeding ticket to a DUI to a murder charge, you are going to be on here. People get confused about this in regard to being charged in Greene County. This is considered a State Charge. Some municipal charges are on Casenet as well. That depends on the City. For instance, Springfield Municipal is NOT on Casenet, but the City of Nixa is on there. You may eventually come off of Casenet if you receive a SIS or you win your case at trial. Additionally, there is a very rare thing that can be done at the discretion of the Court which would change the clearance level of those that can see you on Casenet. That rarely happens in Criminal Cases and is more likely in the Family Court setting.

 

The third issue is all the mugshot websites. This is a hard one. Every time you pull one down it seems that a new one pops up. If money is not an issue, go ahead and spend away to have these pictures pulled down. I have a hard time telling my clients to do it because your picture will roll off the front page in a few hours. After that, you can look people up by their last name, but the websites are so bad it takes forever to even pull up the picture. It is your money and you can spend it how you want. I DO know that if I call as an attorney to pull your picture down they charge me more than they would charge you to do it yourself.

 

The fourth issue is going to be your driving record. Anyone with $8 and clearance through the State of Missouri can order your driving record and find every speeding ticket and DUI and administrative action you have. There is no protecting against this, but know that Grandma will likely not have that ability. Jobs on the other hand will…

 

Will your employer see the criminal charge? I do not know for sure. Why are they looking? Are they looking for a reason to let you go? Then they will find one and it does not have to be for this. Are they looking because their insurance needs an update on your driving record? They will find any driving offense (including a DUI) with a driving record.

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The Future is Here: Breathalyzer Skin Patches

We all know that if someone is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, they will be required to take a breathalyzer test, usually later at the police station. And this test result will be the primary evidence used against him in a drunk driving case.

The first problem with this is that the amount of alcohol in the blood is constantly changing — either rising due to absorption from recent drinking or, more likely, falling due to metabolism of the alcohol.

The second problem is that it is only illegal to have a .08% blood-alcohol concentration at the time of driving — not later at the police station.  And this breath test may not be given for an hour or two after the driving has ended — particularly in accident cases, where the police may not arrive for some time.  So the prosecution has to try to estimate what the blood-alcohol level was when the suspect was driving based upon the later test.

The third problem is that because of this, for the test results to be admissible as evidence in court they have to have been obtained within a certain period of time — in California, for example, within three hours.

But what if there was a breath-testing device which could record what the blood-alcohol level was at the time the suspect is actually driving?
Flexible Wearable Electronic Skin Patch Offers New Way to Monitor Alcohol Levels

San Diego, CA.  Aug. 2 – Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a flexible wearable sensor that can accurately measure a person’s blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the data wirelessly to a laptop, smartphone or other mobile device. The device can be worn on the skin and could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, non-invasive and real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.

The device consists of a temporary tattoo — which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level — and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth…
Clearly, the government would be very interested in requiring anyone convicted of DUI to wear such a patch for the probationary period (commonly three years).

 

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What is a Class A Felony in Missouri?

The Class A Felony is the highest level of classification of crime in the State of Missouri. This is the highest of the high, the most serious level of crime.

This includes cases like Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, Robbery in the First Degree and some drug crimes like Trafficking in the First Degree.

From a lawyer’s point of view these big cases are what the big time lawyers live for. Can they be technical? Yes, but rarely so. It is a common saying that from a legal point of view a DWI can be more difficult to try in a technical point of view than a homicide. There is a lot more science and need for precision in analyzing Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, Breathalyzers and the expert witnesses the officers are holding themselves out to be. Robberies cases do not tend to be scientific in nature. They tend to be more fact base. That makes it less likely to find a technicality to get you or your loved one out of hot water. You need good lawyering more in these high end cases than a routine DWI.

Why do the big time lawyers want these big cases? These cases can be true life changers. These cases are the ones that decide if you are going to be there for your family for the next 10, 20 or 30 years; if you are going to be able to see your five-year-old graduate from high school, or get married, or have kids of their own. These are big time stakes. Big time players want the ball.

You need to be looking for the right kind of attorney to deal with these high end cases. Some of the things you should be looking for in an attorney if you or a family member has been charged with this sort of crime.

Having the compassion to deal with the client and their family. Taking time to explain the situation to them. To talk about the facts. Do they take phone calls and return phone calls?

  • Having the knowledge to deal with the legal issue. To be able to spot where the prosecutor went too far or the detective asked one too many questions. Are they straight out of law school? Are they looking at 1970 law? You need someone up to date but still having the experience.
  • Having the experience to know how the Judge is likely to rule. To be able to predict what is going to happen.
  • Do they try cases? Winning is good, but trying cases is the important part. I once worked for an attorney that said there are two types of attorneys: Cryers and Tryers. If you have a Tryer on your side, you will always beat the Cryer. Being able to stand up and hold the line is an important part of our legal system. Make sure you hire someone that is not afraid to hold that line for you.

Why do you need this kind of lawyer? Because the Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri (RSMo) states that a Class A Felony shall have the punishment as follows:

558.011. 1. The authorized terms of imprisonment, including both prison and conditional release terms, are:

 For a class A felony, a term of years not less than ten years and not to exceed thirty years, or life imprisonment;

Additionally, if you are charged with Murder in the First Degree, the death penalty is also on the table. The stakes do not get higher than this.

Class A felonies will determine the way you live your life for a very long time to come. Do not leave it up to chance.

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Missouri in the Middle When it Comes to DUI Strictness

blue united states map with borders around each state

 

Many consequences could come out of being accused of drunk driving. Multiple factors impact what specific things a person who has had DUI charges brought against them could face if a conviction is ultimately reached in their case. This is because each state has its own particular laws regarding drunk driving, including what actions can be taken against those charged with DUI and those convicted of DUI.

Among the ways states vary when it comes to DUI law is in the strictness of the laws they have. A recent set of state rankings put Missouri solidly in the middle when it comes to overall DUI strictness. In these rankings, done by WalletHub, Missouri was in a three-way tie for the No. 25 spot. The states that Missouri tied with were New Hampshire and South Carolina.

While the rankings found Missouri to be middle-of-the-road overall when it comes to how strict its DUI laws are, there was one general class of DUI-related things that the report rated Missouri to be very strict on. This was DUI prevention.

DUI prevention was one of the two main categories of metrics that were used for determining the overall rankings. The other was criminal penalties. Metrics which fell into the prevention category included a state’s laws and practices on things like: alcohol abuse assessment/treatment, ignition interlock devices, enforcement tactics and license suspension.

When it came to the prevention category, Missouri ranked 7th in the nation in strictness. In comparison, it ranked 39th in the criminal penalties category.

As a note, what sort of DUI prevention measures they could be subject to after being charged with or convicted of a drunk driving crime can have very big impacts on a person, just as the potential criminal fines and jail sentences they could face can.

Experienced Missouri DUI lawyers can assist individuals accused of drunk driving in the state with taking the unique aspects of Missouri DUI law (including its laws related to drunk driving prevention) into account in their defense efforts.

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Robot, Do You Know Why I Stopped You?

Why Police Might Pull Over Self Driving Cars

We may not be too many years away from the point where self-driving cars become a regular presence out on the roads. Such a shift in the type of vehicles being used would likely bring many big changes along with it. Among these changes are changes when it comes to traffic tickets.

A large portion of the typical traffic tickets currently issued are tickets for types of driving conduct (like speeding). Self-driving cars, by taking human drivers out of the equation, might take a lot of these typical reasons for police issuing traffic tickets off of the table. So, the advent of self-driving cars could perhaps bring about a big drop in many typical types of traffic tickets.

However, self-driving cars are unlikely to mean the end of traffic tickets.

For one, self-driving cars, at least in the near-term, will likely have some sort of override feature. So, traditional types of traffic tickets could still be issued for alleged traffic violations committed by human drivers when they were in an override mode and in control of the normally self-driving vehicle.

Also, not all traffic tickets are for driving conduct. For example, tickets are sometimes issued for things such as vehicle equipment problems or failing to wear a seatbelt. Many of these non-driving-conduct traffic tickets would likely remain possibilities after cars turn autonomous.

Self-driving cars could perhaps even lead to their being some new types of equipment-related traffic tickets. If self-driving cars become commonplace, it seems likely that there would be various regulations and rules put in place regarding what kinds of autonomous equipment such cars are to have and the maintenance of such equipment. One wonders if violations of such rules/requirements could become ticketable offenses.

So, while self-driving cars could end up bringing about some big changes when it comes to traffic tickets, traffic tickets are unlikely to completely disappear anytime soon as things individuals could potentially end up facing.

Experienced traffic ticket attorneys can help individuals who have been issued traffic tickets, whether for driving or non-driving conduct, with understanding what options they might have regarding fighting their ticket.

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What to do If You Are Pulled Over for Suspected DWI in Missouri

What you do and don’t do after a DWI stop can affect the outcome of your case. Your actions or those of the police may enable your DWI defense attorney to obtain a dismissal of the charge or another positive outcome.

After You Are Stopped By The Police

If you have been drinking and are pulled over, keep the following in mind during your interaction with the police officer:

  • Be respectful and cooperative — Hostility or rudeness will only invite increased scrutiny by the officer. Be polite and responsive to the officer’s questions.
  • Remember that you are probably on camera — Many DWI stops in Missouri are recorded by squad car videos. This video can provide evidence that supports the officer’s decision to arrest you. Be mindful of this fact and behave appropriately.
  • You have the right to remain silent — Provide the officer with your driver’s license and insurance card. But don’t answer any questions regarding your consumption of alcohol or admit that you have been at a bar. At this point, the officer is looking for information that will allow him or her to continue the investigation to find evidence against you. The less information you provide, the more difficult the officer’s task is.
  • Field sobriety tests — In asking you to perform these tests, the officer is looking for evidence that you are impaired. Respectfully decline to perform field sobriety tests. If he or she presses you to perform these tests, restate your refusal in polite language.
  • Do not submit to a portable breath test — The results from this hand-held device can provide probable cause for the police to arrest you. Refusing to take a portable breath test does not violate Missouri’s implied consent law.
  • Get legal help as soon as possible — If you refuse to perform field sobriety tests or take a portable breath test, you may be transported to a police station and asked to take an official breath test. At that point, should you take the breath test? That is a complicated issue that depends on the specific circumstances of your case. You should obtain advice from an experienced DWI defense attorney.
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Here’s What Happens When Your Uber Driver Gets a DUI

front view of a car driving fast at night

When Katie Gallion’s Uber driver started swerving across the road’s rumble strips only 15 minutes into her ride near Durham, North Carolina, on June 3, she decided to give him a pass. At 10 p.m., it was dark outside and raining hard, she told BuzzFeed News. She didn’t know he’d polished off four beers before starting to drive for Uber that night.

When the car crossed over a grass median, coming precariously close to the oncoming traffic lane, Gallion began considering her options. “I was getting really scared and contemplating that maybe I should nicely ask him to pull over,” the 33-year-old pharmacist said.

But she waited, and after turning onto a two-lane country road, the driver veered off the road and into a ditch, where the ride continued. “I was a crying mess, thinking, Oh my god, what if he doesn’t let me out of the car?” Gallion said. “Then I yelled, ‘What is going on? Let me out!’”

Finally, the driver pulled into the parking lot of a closed minimart and let Gallion out of the car. “I’m a good driver,” Gallion said he told her in a halfhearted attempt to convince her to continue the ride. Then he offered to call her another Uber.

Gallion called a friend instead, and together they called Wake County police. “I really could have died,” Gallion said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened … if I didn’t get out of the car.”

Gallion’s Uber driver was arrested for driving while impaired at 11:09 p.m. — about an hour after her ride began. According to Wake County Superior Court records, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 — nearly four times the .04 legal limit for commercial drivers. The driver, who had no prior arrest record, was also charged with failure to heed a light or siren.

Reached for comment, Gallion’s Uber driver told BuzzFeed News he had accepted one other fare on the night of the incident. He said his memory of Gallion’s ride is unclear. “I remember knowing that she was uncomfortable and it was raining,” he said.


Gallion reported the incident to Uber at around 1 a.m., after reaching her friend’s house. About 12 hours later, the company responded with a boilerplate email and a refund of $69.24 for her ride. In a follow-up phone call, a company representative told Gallion it was “working diligently” to investigate the incident but could not discuss it in detail because of its privacy policy. She asked if he had been deactivated. Uber declined to tell her, citing a company mandate “to respect the privacy of all users.”

“Uber has a zero tolerance policy for the use of drugs and alcohol, and upon learning of these allegations, we immediately removed the driver’s access to the platform,” an Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. Uber said this driver in particular had no prior safety complaints and was “highly rated.


BuzzFeed News reported in March that screenshots of Uber’s internal customer support platform showed the company’s instructions for how representatives should handle incidents involving alcohol and drug use. “If rider does not wish to escalate with LE (law enforcement) or media, follow strike system, issue warning, and resolve without escalating.” Under resolution suggestions, the screenshot showed that for the “1st strike,” customer service representatives were instructed to issue a “final warning,” and to permanently ban drivers at strike two.

Emails provided to BuzzFeed News show that Uber first reached out to Gallion’s driver by email at 1 p.m. the following day, about 12 hours after she reported him to the company for drunk driving. Unable to reach him over the phone (he was in jail), a company representative asked the driver when he was available discuss a “concerning report” by phone. When he checked his Uber app, he saw he had already lost access to the platform.

The next day, June 5, Uber conducted a brief interview during which Gallion’s driver was asked to review the details of the allegations against him. The driver told BuzzFeed News that he confirmed to Uber that he had indeed been arrested for driving under the influence. The following day he received an email notification from Uber saying he’d been deactivated and his “partnership” with the company ended. “They handled it quickly,” the driver said.

This isn’t the first time an Uber driver has been arrested for driving under the influence. That said, Uber notes that ride-hailing can be a wise alternative to driving after drinking. According to a study the company conducted with the nonprofit group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Uber’s entry into a number of markets correlated with subsequent declines in DUI arrests.

Uber says it depends on riders to rate drivers and provide feedback, which its safety team reviews. “Uber may also deactivate a driver who receives several unconfirmed complaints of drug or alcohol use,” the ride-hail giant’s deactivation policy reads. The company told BuzzFeed it has a team of former law enforcement professionals on staff to help with police investigations. When BuzzFeed News asked if it has a system for learning about drivers’ law enforcement incidents instead of just relying on riders’ alerts, Uber said in some states background checks are “periodically” updated. Uber did not respond when asked if North Carolina is included among those states.

On Wednesday, Uber announced it is piloting app features aimed at making rides safer. In several markets across the U.S., drivers will receive daily reports on their braking, acceleration, and navigation. The goal, Uber told BuzzFeed, is to lay the groundwork to eventually create a system that gives the company real-time alerts about erratic drivers.

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Pot Breathalyzers are Being Tested By Law Enforcement

With the number of states that have passed recreational marijuana laws, the need to detect stoned drivers has increased. Technology companies have come to the rescue, creating devices to detect whether an individual has recently smoked or ingested marijuana. While the devices are still undergoing testing, one researcher, who happens to be a volunteer officer, has begun field testing. Like the alcohol breathalyzers that are commonplace, the marijuana breathalyzer detects the active ingredient, THC, in an individual’s breath. Based on the reading provided, an officer will be able to tell if a person has recently ingested or smoked marijuana. However, unlike alcohol, where there have been countless studies regarding the point of impairment, the research in regards to marijuana is lacking.

Why Does Law Enforcement Need a Pot Breathalyzer?

Marijuana, unlike alcohol, cannot be as accurately detected in urine, saliva, or blood tests. While it will show up in all three tests, the problem is that it can show up for days, weeks, or even months after the last consumption. The breathalyzer serves to bridge the gap in evidence an officer would need, not just to make an arrest, but also to make a court conviction more probable. The pot breathalyzer would allow officers to premise an arrest for DUI on marijuana based not only on a field sobriety test, but also on a breathalyzer reading that shows the driver has consumed marijuana within the last few hours. The device cannot detect marijuana use beyond a few hours.

When Will Device Go to Market?

While nearly half the country now allows either medical or recreational marijuana, the pot breathalyzers are not set to be publicly available for some time. The manufacturers are trying to rush the product to market, but more time is still needed. The devices still need to go through rigorous testing for accuracy, as well as the development of a standardized scale for when a person should be considered inebriated by marijuana. Just like many states have adopted the 0.08% BAC standard, a similar standard will need to be developed for marijuana before these devices can actually be effective.

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