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Sandlin v. State, Georgia Court of Appeal, Appeal No. A10A2197, Jan. 19, 2011: Spreading the Love

On January 19, 2011, the Georgia Court of Appeals expanded the scope of the Love v. State, 271 Ga. 398 (1999) which held unconstitutional the Georgia DUI statute that equated the presence of marijuana in a person’s blood, breath, or urine to DUI regardless of the effect of the marijuana on the person under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution as there was no legitimate state interest to treat illegal marijuana differently than legal users when the effect of the marijuana on driving is the same. Georgia law provides that users of legal drugs or prescription drugs can only be convicted if they are rendered incapable of driving safely and not for the mere presence of the drug in their system.

Sandlin was arrested for DUI drugs for taking Xanax. Sandlin presented no evidence of a Xanax prescription. Sandlin was found not guilty of less safe driving as a result of drugs at the Coweta County DUI Trial and guilty of the per se drug count or for having the mere presence of Xanax in his system at the DUI Jury Trial in Newnan, Georgia. The Court of Appeals held that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution for a statute to treat legal Xanax users differently than illegal Xanax users and legislate them DUI simply for having some amount of Xanax in their system because the purpose of the statute is not directly related to public safety and is arbitrarily drawn.

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