Thanks to Insane DUI Law, Driver Gets 6 Months for Fatal Crash She Did Not Cause

Michigan's "zero tolerance" standard for THC-positive motorists inflicts another injustice.


St Petersburg Times / ZUMAPRESS / Newscom

Kali Su Schram did not cause the crash that killed Ralph Martin, a 64-year-old bicyclist who rode into her path as she was driving on Seaway Drive in Muskegon, Michigan, on the morning of November 26, 2015. She will nevertheless serve six months in jail as a result of the accident, thanks to Michigan's unjust and unscientific definition of drugged driving.

Schram, now 20, had a detectable amount of THC in her blood at the time of the accident. There is no evidence that Schram was impaired by marijuana, let alone that it contributed to the crash, and she was not at fault, since she had the right of way when Martin suddenly appeared in front of her at an intersection. "If you read the police report," Schram's lawyer, James Marek, told the Muskegon Chronicle, "she could not have done anything to avoid this particular accident."

None of that mattered, because in Michigan it is illegal to drive with "any amount" of a Schedule I controlled substance in your body. According to the Michigan Supreme Court, an inactive metabolite of marijuana does not count as a Schedule I drug, but THC does, even at levels too low to impair driving ability.

"Like a person who operates a car without a driver's license," explained Muskegon County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Maat, "a person who illegally has a controlled substance in their bloodstream is not legally allowed to drive a car. When a death results from an accident when a defendant could not legally drive, it is then left to the judge to decide an appropriate sentence depending on the facts and circumstances of each case." But for the restraint shown by Martin's family, the Chronicle says, Schram could have gone to prison for more than two years, even though she did nothing wrong that contributed to Martin's death.

The Chronicle cites a similar Muskegon County case from last year in which a driver named Donovan Wilson received a six-month sentence because of a crash that killed his pregnant girlfriend, who was sitting beside him as they returned from a shopping trip. "His THC amount was low," the paper notes, "and the couple had been driving on an unfamiliar road." After the accident, Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler said he did not think drugs were a factor.

The arbitrariness of Michigan's law was compounded by People v. Koon, a 2013 case in which the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state's medical marijuana law protects patients from prosecution for "internal possession" of cannabis while driving unless they are "under the influence," as demonstrated by evidence of impairment. As Maat, the prosecutor, put it, "Whether a person appears to be under the influence of THC is not an element we are required to prove unless the person has a valid medical marijuana exception." That exception only underlines the injustice inflicted on drivers like Schram and Wilson, who can be convicted of driving under the influence even when they're not, based on the pretext of traffic safety.

While zero tolerance laws like Michigan's are especially objectionable, since there is not even a pretense of an impairment-based standard, similar injustices arise under laws like Washington's, which makes any driver whose blood THC concentration exceeds five nanograms per milliliter automatically guilty of driving under the influence. That standard ensnares many regular users whose THC levels may exceed the legal threshold even when they are not measurably impaired.

The lack of a scientific basis for linking a particular THC level to impaired driving ability does not justify setting the cutoff at zero. Requiring evidence of impairment, as Michigan does for medical marijuana patients, obviously makes the jobs of police and prosecutors harder. But the alternative is routinely treating innocent, harmless people as if they are menaces to public safety.

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  1. A Driver Gets 6 Months for a Fatal Crash She Did Not Cause

    No she didn’t. She got 6 months for having some drug in her system. She got caught because some moron rode his bike in front of her.

    1. No. Nobody in Michigan is sentenced to 6 months in jail for ‘internal possession’ of trace amounts of THC.

  2. Yeah, this is why you never give the police any blood (although I presume they must have obtained a warrant in this case?).

    And also one of the many, many reasons not to live in fucking Michigan.

    1. And also one of the many, many reasons not to live in fucking Michigan

      On the other hand, Michigan outlawed capital punishment when it became a state in 1837 and has never legalized it.

    2. Or better still – this is why you don’t smoke marijuana if you’re going to have to drive a car.

      1. there are many ways besides smoking, some of which involve NO psychoactive effects, and are for purely medical reasons, one can have for testing positive for THC.

        Further, THC can, and does, remain in the blood for up to a full month after use. So, one can be three weeks clear of any possible effects from the stuff and still get tossed into the pokey in Michigan.

        Besides, some one SHOULD make a strong case disproving the determination that marijuana is a “Schedule 1” drug… to be IN that category the substance MUST be “highly addictive”, and “have no possible medical use”. Neither of these is true. IN fact, since Michigan makes provision to accept medical use, that very law is PROOF the stuff is NOT “schedule 1”, Their own law nullifies the on on zero tolerance on the basis it is “Schedule 1”.

      2. Who said it was smoked, perhaps it was “second-hand”. And perhaps the state should learn marijuana is 7 different drugs. What caused the death is ignorance, stupidity, cockiness, disobeying the law, careless/reckless biking… Motorist could have been sleeping and still the bike rider would be dead or she could have been jacked-up on cop crank (coffee) and bicyclist still dead. Bicyclist does not factor in that a street may contain a moving vehicle and in a bike versus auto bicycle always loses?
        So she has to go away and think about the wrong things she did… bicyclist goes away forever and will not fuck up anybody’s life ever again.
        I am careful driving and when I was hauling 14 foot pine logs with my full-size pickup all the cars as usual that were waiting for me to go by would start to inch out. Acting as though they would chance it my thoughts were “Go ahead but consider how much my vehicle weighs when stopped but now it is moving, plus I will not slowdown and I will hit you broadside. It will be your last minute on Earth”.

  3. Isn’t that what Jury nullification is for?

    Is what happened Justice?

    1. Is what happened Justice?

      I am afraid a lot of people will answer “yes”.

      1. Prison time is expensive too. Everytime a non-violent offender gets put in jail, that’s a crap ton of money to put them there. So if people are assholes enough to want to take away people’s freedom for shit like this, then they should have to pay for it. Maybe the locality, not the state or the feds.

        1. except she’s been locked up on the basis of a MICHIGAN law. SO yes, the STATE will bear the cost, which means everyone in the state pays to hold her there.

  4. So if she did not cause the accident, why was she even tested? Something in the story is missing. If she did not cause the accident then who did? What does the blurb about the cyclist running in front of her even mean? What are we not being told?

    Not defending her imprisonment in any way, but clearly there is more to the story.

    1. That is a good question. Initially, I thought it was because there was a fatality. However, the bicyclist didn’t die for several months after. I can’t believe it is constitutional to do blood tests for every motorist after every accident.

  5. If there is a traffic accident, with one person being totally sober and the other not, then the accident was caused by the non-sober person. Doesn’t matter of the sober person was speeding through a red light at 100mph, the non-sober person caused the accident. Not only that, but the only tickets/summonses issued will be to the non-sober person.

    I know from personal experience. I was on a bicycle and was hit by a speeding car that ran a red light, but because the cop smelled alcohol on my I was issued a DUI and the 15 yr old kid on a learning permit with a carload of friends got no tickets at all. Not only that, but I was sentenced to restitution among other things. So I had to fix the car that hit me. Talk about adding insult to injury.

    1. I’ve spoken to several cops about this and they all said they would do the same thing. As in write up a fictional report that said I caused the accident, shoo away witnesses and threaten them with arrest for talking to me so they couldn’t contradict the fictional report, issue me a DUI, and let the kid who caused the accident go on their way.

      And people wonder why I despise cops.

  6. Its the idea that the collision would not have happened had the person not been driving without a license. In other words, without a license you are not supposed to be driving, so you should not have been on the road when the person ran into your vehicle.

    It negates the culpability of the person that caused the collision.

    1. but the defense by the victim that “he had a broken taillight (or cracked windscreen, bald tyre, etc) ” and should not have even been on the road thus HE is at fault” has been tossed out so many times………

      this is a case of a prosecutor eager to gain “Brownie Points” as a “law and order” guy, never mind a defender of justice.

  7. What I can’t understand is why the legislature would make an exception for driver’s with a “medical marijuana” card. If the concern is that drivers who use marijuana would be impaired and either more likely to either cause an accident or unable to react quickly enough to prevent one, then using marijuana for “medicinal” as opposed to “recreational” purposes wouldn’t make a difference.

    1. it was never about safety. If it were they wouldn’t let anyone over the age of 65 drive as they wake up impaired when compared to their twenty-year or 40 year old self’s reflexes. Then they begin to take their legal medication cocktail and wander the streets.

      Try to take their licenses away.

      1. That’s right sonny boy! Because even with our impairments and legal prescription cocktails, we can whip your ass silly in 15 seconds or less. Find a really old history book with pictures of cops back in the day of nightsticks (oops, I mean batons), then compare them to a good old fashioned wooden cane. No permit required, unless you also want the good parking places.

    2. It’s because if you have a medical reason, you deserve to be allowed to kill people. Just as you deserve their $ to take care of your condition.

  8. On the other hand, here’s something a bit encouraging. Here is the story on the ‘mlive’ site that aggregates newspaper stories across the state. The comments sections are often a fever swamp. But in this case, the sentiment was almost universally against the arrest and conviction of the woman who was driving.…..l#comments

  9. They could make it so you have to be wearing a live squid on your head while sitting on a stack of Ritz crackers. After all, driving is a “privilege.” Hence the common term “road happiness.”

  10. That is a pretty bad DUI law for this to happen. That is why it is so important to FightDUIcharges if arrested, since so many drivers seem to get charged for DUI offenses unfairly with these news laws.

  11. Michigan has a conservative Republican administration that is strongly “anti-drug”. Medical marijuana is supposedly “legal” here, but apparently otherwise the use of marijuana is illegal. The way Michigan’s traffic laws are written if you are under the influence of any prohibited drug, (or are legally drunk) you are “at fault” even if the accident wasn’t your fault.

  12. How the fuck are we supposed to put anyone in jail if you want laws to be all scientific and shit?

  13. Per se laws specifying THC blood limits should not be included. I have developed a new public health app that measures impairment–it is called DRUID (an acronym for “DRiving Under the Influence of Drugs”) available now in the Apple App Store (Android version coming soon). DRUID measures reaction time, decision making, hand-eye coordination, time estimation and balance, and then statistically integrates hundreds of data points into an overall impairment score. DRUID takes just 5 minutes (and the 2-minute version will be part of the DRUID app in a week or two).

    Our website is

    DRUID allows marijuana users (or others who drink alcohol, use prescription drugs, etc.) to self-assess their own level of impairment and (hopefully) decide against driving if they are impaired. DRUID also demonstrates that it is feasible to measure impairment reliably by the roadside, not just exposure to a drug.

    DRUID was recently featured on NPR’s All Things Considered:…..-much-weed

    After obtaining my Ph.D. at Harvard, I have been a professor of psychology at UMass/Boston for the past 40 years, specializing in research methods, measurement and statistics.

    Michael Milburn, Professor
    Department of Psychology

  14. Certainly the ACLU will appeal this all the way to the supreme court, in order to force the reclassification of the devil weed from schedule 1 to schedule 3 or ideally schedule none. It cannot be schedule one as it is not highly addictive, and does have medicinal value. But why let facts get in the way?

  15. Why aren’t Nazi swastikas and Communist hammers and ???? ??? sickles equally offensive? My question is provoked by the fact that I saw a kid wearing a CCCP T-shirt while??? I was at the gym

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