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Driver accused of being high on pot in fatal Bellevue accident

A 33-year-old man, Caleb Floyd, who allegedly hit a motorcyclist after failing to yield on a left turn Friday night in Bellevue is expected to be charged with vehicular homicide after allegedly admitting he was high on medical marijuana at the time of the accident.

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SEATTLE — A 33-year-old driver accused of being high on marijuana has been arrested and booked into the King County Jail for vehicular homicide for an Oct. 4 accident in Bellevue in which a motorcyclist was struck and killed on a downtown street, Bellevue police said Friday.

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The suspect, Caleb J. Floyd, was initially arrested Oct. 4 in connection with the death of Blake Gaston, 23, after his vehicle allegedly struck Gaston’s motorcycle on NE 10th Street and he told police that he had smoked medical marijuana two hours before the accident.  He was released from custody two days later pending completion of the police investigation and toxicology tests on his blood, Bellevue police spokesman Carla Iafrate said.

On Thursday, the King County Prosecutor’s Office notified Bellevue police that it had issued a $100,000 arrest warrant for Floyd for the crime of vehicular homicide. Bellevue police arrested Floyd at his resident in Bellevue without incident and he was booked into the King County Jail on $100,000 bail.

“The investigation revealed that Gaston was following traffic laws,” a Bellevue Police Department news release said. “It also revealed that Floyd showed signs and symptoms of impairment and a search warrant was obtained for his blood.   The lab test result showed he had almost double the amount of marijuana (THC) in his blood as noted under state law. The toxicology for Floyd showed his blood contained 9.8 NG of THC in his blood.  The sample was taken more than three hours after the collision.

“The legal limit of marijuana for driving under the influence, (THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana) in Washington state is 5 NG (Nanograms).  Alcohol and any recreational or prescription drug that impairs your ability to drive a vehicle safely can be considered driving under the influence,” the release said.

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.

potCourt 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.

BELLEVUE — A 33-year-old man who allegedly hit a motorcyclist after failing to yield on a left turn Friday night in Bellevue is expected to be charged with vehicular homicide after allegedly admitting he was high on medical marijuana at the time of the accident.

Caleb J. Floyd was involved in an accident that killed 24-year-old Blake Gaston Friday night at the intersection of NE 10th Street and 102nd Avenue NE, court documents show. According to police, Floyd failed yield on a left turn and ran into Gaston, who was traveling westbound on NE 10th Street in an orange 2005 KTM 450 motorcycle.

Following the accident, a drug recognition expert interviewed Floyd and determined he was intoxicated even though he blew a 0.00 blood-alcohol level in a voluntary test. The drug recognition expert asked Floyd if he smoked marijuana, and he allegedly admitted to smoking pot just before the crash.

“I knew you were going to pin this on that,” Floyd allegedly told police.

He was booked and held in King County Jail on suspicion of vehicular homicide. He is expected to appear in King County Court for a bail hearing at 2:30 p.m. Monday.

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