Driver who allegedly admitted smoking pot before fatal crash released from jail

BELLEVUE -- The suspect arrested in a deadly crash in Bellevue Friday night is being released from the King County Jail, despite what police say was his own admission of smoking pot before the incident and failing a field sobriety test.

Just after 6 p.m. Friday, police say, Caleb J. Floyd, 33, made an illegal left hand turn in front of 23 year-old motorcyclist Blake R. Gaston at NE 10th St. and 102nd Ave. NE in Bellevue.

Court documents show Floyd failed a field sobriety test but blew a 0.00 on a breathalyzer.  Police said he told officers he had a medical marijuana card and had smoked about two hours before the crash.

Lynnwood police officer Mark Brinkman, a drug recognition expert , said this is the first vehicular homicide case he is aware of involving only marijuana since the drug was legalized.

“You can’t drive safely while you’re impaired by marijuana.  What level you’re impaired is somewhat subjective,” said Brinkman.

The legal limit for pot in our state is five nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood.  Floyd’s blood tests are not back yet, but those figures have come under fire from medical marijuana activists.

“Those who use a lot of marijuana may have that higher level in their blood  but not be impaired objectively, and those who don’t use as much might be quite impaired but have a lower limit in their blood,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who has pushed for tougher DUI laws.

Regardless of blood tests or breathalyzers, investigators look for signs of impairment in any serious crash.  Brinkman teaches police what to look for when they suspect someone is stoned.

“We’ll have them open their mouth.  A lot of times you may see the taste buds on the tongue raised up.  Their short-term memory is affected by the cannabis so they’ll forget the instructions and take the wrong number of steps,” said Brinkman.

“In this case, if the drug recognition expert found he was impaired, irrespective of what was in his blood, that would hold up in court,” Goodman claimed.

Goodman is watching this case closely to see if the Legislature needs to consider changes to the law.

“There is controversy about this five nanogram limit.  We’re not going to amend it at this time.  It is the law and see how it works but there is a question if it’s an accurate level of impairment,” said Goodman.

There are no conditions of release for Floyd, so he is out with no bail and is free to drive until any charges are filed.

Goodman said had this case involved alcohol and there was a breathalyzer, the suspect would likely be charged at this point.