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Virginia Beach conviction sheds light on marijuana DUI cases, challenges

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. —

The Virginia Beach man on trial for hitting two women with his pickup truck has learned his fate.  



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It took a jury two hours to find Nathan Poole, 26, guilty on all charges, including DUI, DUI maiming and involuntary manslaughter DUI.  


In August 2022, Virginia Beach Police say Poole crashed into Rosa Blanco, 76 and her cousin, Conception, in Town Center. Blanco died at the scene. 


According to court documents, Poole failed some field sobriety tests and allegedly told officers he'd smoked marijuana. 


The family of the victims are calling the conviction a relief. 


Meanwhile, his attorneys still argue marijuana is not to blame for this accident. 


“The indicators were not there, I felt, and that’s what we put forth in front of the jury,” said defense attorney Diane Toscano. 


After the jury handed down the guilty verdict, the defense and prosecution commented on the rarity of marijuana DUI cases.  


“This will probably be a case that people are talking about for a very long time,” said Virginia Beach Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Powers. 


Toscano added, “There’s not enough scientific evidence for citizens to know how you handle this field.” 


When someone is stopped for drinking and driving, they can take a breathalyzer test, and if their blood alcohol content is above .08, they’re legally impaired. However, there is no breathalyzer-adjacent test to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana. 


“There is no test that can be taken on the scene, but there is a test that can be taken at the hospital and that’s a blood draw,” Dan Miller explained. He’s a criminal defense attorney who handles marijuana cases.  


Miller added, officers need specific training to perform tests on the scene if they think someone has not only taken drugs, but is impaired by them. 


"Generally speaking, if an officer pulls over somebody that they think is under the influence of marijuana or some other drug, they’ll call in the drug recognition expert to perform these tests,” he said.


Kenny Miller is a retired police chief. He says testing someone for alcohol impairment may be more cut and dry, but drug recognition officers are experts in their field. 


“I would say it’s a bit more challenging, but these officers not only go through regular police training, they go through additional training to become drug recognition experts,” Miller said. 


In Poole's case, the jury used testimony from a master police officer, body cam footage of the impairment tests and a toxicology expert’s report to reach a conviction. According to that report, Poole had a blood THC level of .0052, which is well above many states’ legal threshold for impairment. The expert testified they couldn’t pinpoint exactly when he had ingested it but estimated within four to six hours of the crash.  


“The jury concluded that based on scientific evidence, as to how the level of THC within the individual’s blood likely had a significant effect on his ability to make good decisions,” explained defense attorney Miller.  


When asked if the Commonwealth should set a more concrete standard for marijuana DUI impairment levels, similar to other states where the drug is legal, Toscano said, “I don’t know if that’s possible with what we’ve heard from the experts about marijuana, but that would be helpful.” 


Powers said, “That is up to the legislature. We are just happy that this conviction sends a message to the general public that you cannot drive around after smoking marijuana and being under the influence of marijuana in Virginia Beach or anywhere in Virginia.” 

Poole will be sentenced in August. He faces up to 10 years for each felony count. 

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