While some states have begun to legalize marijuana (specifically, Michigan and Illinois) it remains illegal in Indiana. Even after the consumption or use of the said substance, one can still be charged with possession. Meaning that a substance may have been legally used in one state, it still can be criminally charged as a possession and or usage with only containing/maintaining the substance within your bodily system. Typically, there are two situations where this issue comes into play. One, as hinted at above, is when an individual consumes and/or uses marijuana in a state that has legalized said usage and reenters into a state where it still deemed to be criminalized. The other being underage drinking. Where the individual does not have physical possession of the alcohol beverage or container but has rather consumed and is considered to be under the influence/intoxicated. Both of these cases are prevalent and knowing the law surrounding these issues, could save time, money and even potentially jail time.
One of the most common cases that involve the issue of your body being legal constituted as a “container” is related to aspects and issues of marijuana usage. It is commonly known that if you are caught with marijuana in your pocket it results in a simple and clear possession charge. However, what happens if you get caught with it only in your system? Further, what if you used the substance in a state in which it was legal and then reenter into a state which is still deemed to be illegal? The answer is shocking and should be known, especially to the residents of Indiana.
This issue specifically relates and arises out of driving while under the influence (OWI). Indiana statutes/laws associated with operating a vehicle while intoxicated encompasses the usage of marijuana. Indiana Code, §9-30-5-2 reflects this by stating: “(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a person who operates a vehicle while intoxicated commits a Class C misdemeanor.” Additionally, Indiana case law has summarized this issue to be seen/defined as the following, “it becomes a crime when the driver becomes intoxicated by the prescribed controlled substance to the extent that it impairs his thought and actions and he loses normal control of his faculties.” Jones ex rel. Jones v. Pillow Express Delivery, Inc., 908 N.E.2d 1211, (Ind. Ct. App. 2009).
Indiana has defined term “Intoxicated” to be under the influence of (1) alcohol; (2) a controlled substance (as defined in IC 35-48-1); (3) a drug other than alcohol or a controlled substance; (4) a substance described in IC 35-46-6-2 or IC 35-46-6-3; (5) a combination of substances described in subdivisions (1) through (4); or (6) any other substance, not including food and food ingredients (as defined in IC 6-2.5-1-20), tobacco (as defined in IC 6-2.5-1-28), or a dietary supplement (as defined in IC 6-2.5-1-16).
This issue of intoxication even extends to trace amounts of marijuana in one’s system is known both legally and scientifically as a metabolite. Thus, the next reasonable question would be what is a metabolite? A metabolite is a foreign substance that is introduced into the body that causes significant chemical changes and reactions in the body leaving behind traceable drug-based chemistry. There are two different groups/types of metabolites, active and inactive. Both of which can be found within a person’s bloodstream. An active metabolite is a substance that is currently present in the blood or urine resulting in intoxication at the time of operating the vehicle (i.e. drugs recently consumed before operating the vehicle). While an inactive metabolite is the chemicals/substances that can be found in the blood, hair or urine days, weeks and even months after they were consumed, yet have no intoxication effect on the person (i.e. drugs consumed in the past that aren’t causing current intoxication but are still measurable). However, under Indiana law, there is no distinction between active and inactive metabolites. The state of Indiana treats them the same and as such both are punishable under the law. Charges can include as a per se charge — meaning if the metabolite is found in your system, you are guilty without proving intoxication, or (2) a metabolite causing intoxication. Per se metabolite charges are filed as C Misdemeanors, with penalties ranging from 0-60 days. If it involves intoxication, it can be charged as a C Misdemeanor if there is no endangerment, or it can be charged as an A Misdemeanor (penalties of 0-365 days in jail) if endangerment is found. Thus, under Indiana law, one can be deemed to be intoxicated due to either both active or inactive metabolite and as a resident of Indiana, the main take away is that it does not matter where you consume the substance your body is deemed to be a legal container. As such can have legal consequence associated with all aspects of intoxication.
So, what does this mean? The big picture idea here is that under the application of Indiana law, your body is considered to be a container. This allows the state of Indiana to a criminal charge for usage and possession of marijuana. This remains true even if you used and/or consumed it in a state in which they have classified it to be legal.
Another common case where Indiana law maintains the standard of one’s body being a container for illegal substances used/consumed is underage drinking. Most individuals believe that the only manner in which one can be charged with underage drinking is when the police catch you with physical possession of the alcoholic beverage. This is a false and misleading mindset to have. You can still be charged with underage drinking when the only possession of alcohol is the substance found within your bodily system. This is commonly known as your body being seen as a container.
Indiana law maintains that it is a violation of the law for anyone under the age of 21 to: consume, possess, or transport alcohol, also known as minor in possession or minor consumption; make a false statement to obtain alcohol; enter a bar or place that serves or sells alcohol, unless the minor is 18 or older or accompanied by a parent or guardian over 21, and the minor is there to eat food and not to drink alcohol. A charge of this nature could include penalties up to 60 days in jail, a fine as much as $500 and loss of driving privileges for up to a year. The key issues here are the relations that “consume, possess, or transport alcohol” has one’s body being legally classified as a container. Indiana Code: §9-13-2-86 defines and clarifies the term of consumption to be included in the definition of intoxication of/by alcohol. Overall, a general rule of thumb when determining whether you would or would not be classified as intoxicated is if the substance creates and/or produces an impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of a person’s faculties, you would under Indiana law be considered to be intoxicated. Thus, if you are under the age of 21, you can violate Indiana law even if the alcohol is only found within your bodily system. This is due to the intoxicating effect it has upon one’s ability to control and faculties one’s action in a manner that society has legally classified to be acceptable and Indiana law prohibiting said actions.