The “Tongue Check”

Law Enforcement’s Newest Arrest Tool
States across the country have lessened the penalties for marijuana possession. Driving a car while under the influence of any intoxicating substance, however– including marijuana–still counts as a DWI.  The latest tool being used by law enforcement to arrest those smoking marijuana is asking the driver to say, “Ahhhgh.”  Police in both Washington and Oregon have based both DWI arrests and vehicle searches on the color of a driver’s tongue.
Believe it or not, police contend they can detect recent drug use based on whether or not a suspect’s tongue is green! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns of the following characteristics of a marijuana related DUI:
“… characteristic indicators may include odor of marijuana in car or on subject’s breath, marijuana debris in mouth, green coating of tongue, bloodshot eyes, body and eyelid tremors, relaxed inhibitions, incomplete thought process, and poor performance on field sobriety tests.”
Criminal defense lawyers are not the only ones questioning the validity of this “green tongue” thing.  The Washington Court of Appeals also questioned whether a green tongue establishes probable cause for anything.  The court agreed with the defense lawyer that no probable cause existed, explaining:
            Trooper Lane contends that a green tongue is indicative of recent marijuana use. Even assuming he is correct, the absence of any other indicators of recent marijuana usage, combined with the many innocuous ways to get a green tongue, indicate a lack of reasonable suspicion.  Although we assume the officer’s assertion to be true for purposes of this opinion, we are nevertheless skeptical as to its accuracy. We find no case stating that recent marijuana usage leads to a green tongue. The only case we could find that remotely supports such a proposition is State v. Baity, 140 Wn.2d 1, 991 P.2d 1151 (2000), wherein the opinion’s fact section mentions that the defendant, who had admitted to recent marijuana usage, also had a green tongue.
Another Washington State man, Mike Simmons, was arrested–based on the fact his tongue appeared to have a ‘green film.’ 
“As soon as the officer came to the vehicle, he asked me to stick out my tongue,” said Simmons to Q13 Fox – the local news affiliate.
Simmons said he was put in jail for 13 hours and is now in debt for $5,000 for lawyer and towing fees, due to the incident. He was also told he could not drive while out on bail.
Simmons said the officer told him that the green film on his tongue was a sign he was using marijuana. Simmons said he had used marijuana three days prior, but was completely sober during the incident, which happened while he was on his lunch break.
Despite nothing being found in Simmons car, the police claimed the tongue was proof enough. No reports of this unique police work have come to surface in Louisiana; however, if this is part of an emerging national trend, a tongue check may soon become part of a routine traffic stop.

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