Amid the controversy over a bill to set THC driving limits, and sponsor Claire Levy's views about a 5 nanogram or 8 nanogram standard, we sought out details on two of last year's most reported driving-under-the-influence-of-marijuana stories: crashes involving Joshua Wittig and Daniel Seilheimer. THC specifics are off-limits in the first case, which heads to trial soon, but not in the second.
As you'll recall, Wittig was arrested after an October 1 crash that killed John Page Hines, 33. Wittig tested positive for marijuana, and shortly after the bust, North Metro Drug Task Force Commander Jerry Peters noted that an investigation was underway to determine how he got his weed.
"It's our understanding that the suspect in the case is a self-proclaimed medical marijuana patient who didn't fill out all the paperwork -- that he got a doctor's recommendation from a Boulder clinic for back pain and then took a partially filled-out application to a dispensary," Peters said at the time. "We're trying to see if there's a loophole in the system that hasn't been recognized where people are trying to buy marijuana illegally, or if this is somebody who's in the system who hasn't been verified yet. We're still in the investigative stages, but we know the medical use of marijuana is involved in the case."
Where do things stand now? We checked with Krista Flanagan, spokeswoman for the 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office, which is handling the matter. She reveals that three charges were filed against Wittig on October 6: vehicular homicide DUI, vehicular homicide reckless driving, and second-degree assault with reckless driving causing serious bodily injury. All three counts are felonies, with the first ranked F3 and the second and third considered F4s.
According to this legal website, F3 sentencing ranges from a presumptive minimum of four years to a maximum of twelve years, with F4s typically falling within two to six years.
As for Wittig's THC level at the time of the crash, Flanagan says that information won't be revealed until the trial, which is currently scheduled to get underway on May 2.
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And Seilheimer, a 41-year-old semi-tractor trailer driver from Colorado Springs? He died in a crash with a dump truck that also killed that vehicle's driver, George Mendoza, 52 -- and afterward, the Denver Post reported that marijuana had been found in Seilheimer's system.
But how much? We put that question to Commerce City Police Department spokesman Lt. Chuck Sonnier. He revealed that Seilheimer's blood showed 110 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood -- far, far beyond the 5 nanogram limit envisioned by Levy's bill, also known as HB 1261, or even the 8 nanogram standard she tried unsuccessfully to institute via amendment.
By the way, the Cannabis Therapy Institute notes that HB 1261 will be discussed by the Senate judiciary committee on Monday, April 11, when it's entirely possible the stories of Wittig and Seilheimer will be mentioned as cautionary tales.
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Page down to see a larger version of Wittig's booking photo, as well as the Thornton Police Department release issued immediately after the accident.
Thornton Police Department release:
Fatal Traffic Accident
On 10-01-10, at approximately 12:19 am, Thornton Police and Fire units were dispatched to the 3200 block of E. Thornton Parkway in reference to reports of a fatal head-on traffic accident involving a motorcycle and SUV.
On scene officers discovered a deceased male lying in the roadway.
Preliminary investigation indicates that several witnesses observed the suspect vehicle a Nissan Exterra traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes in the 3200 block of E. Thornton Parkway just prior to the accident. The SUV, being driven by Joshua Wittig collided head-on with a motorcycle traveling eastbound in the inside lane. The driver of the motorcycle was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The suspect is being investigated for allegedly driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Investigators recovered drug paraphernalia with suspected marijuana residue inside the SUV.
Arrested for investigation of Vehicular Homicide was:
Joshua Raymond Wittig Thornton, CO. 80229
The deceased individual has been identified as:
John Page Hines Thornton, CO. 80229
Formal charges are pending filing with the Adams County District Attorneys Office, and results of the toxicology tests.
This case is being investigated jointly by the Thornton Police Department Accident Reconstruction Team and the North Metro Drug Task Force.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Rob Corry thinks THC driving limits may violate constitution, disabilities act."