Since 23 states and Washington D.C. already have some form of legal marijuana use, it probably won't surprise anyone that another 11 states are likely to join the group soon. It probably also won't surprise anybody if the courts begin seeing an increase in marijuana-related DUI/DWI charges. What should you know about driving after using marijuana?
The "I" Stands for "Influence" or "Impaired"
Drivers can be cited for DUI/DWI (depending on the term used in your state) anytime they are under the influence or are impaired by an intoxicating substance - including marijuana. It doesn't matter that if marijuana use is legalized in your state for medicinal or recreational use. People can be charged for driving while impaired due to any number of perfectly legal medications - including those for insomnia, pain, or anxiety.
Your Defenses In Court Could Be Limited
In most states, your conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol can depend on your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). Most states either use a breathalyzer machine that is designed to give instant BAC results right at the roadside or an actual blood test (which takes longer but may be more accurate). They make a reasonable showing of "how drunk" someone actually is, since inebriation and the amount of alcohol in a person's body is closely linked.
However, these types of tests are ineffective when it comes to measuring "how high" a person is, because drugs can remain detectable in a person's breath, urine, or blood far longer than the actual high. For example, someone who has never used the drug before may still test positive for THC (the active component of marijuana) in his or her system for up to 4 days after a single use, long after the "high" has worn off.
In reaction, 15 states have passed "per se" drugged driving laws. In 12 of those states, driving with any detectable level of certain drugs in your system, like THC, is illegal. In the other states, there are specific quantities of the drug that equate to being "impaired" or "under the influence." If you happen to get caught driving with detectable levels of THC in your system in any of those states, it makes a DUI/DWI case harder to defend.
Eventually, a marijuana breathalyzer is predicted to be in widespread use by police, but the science behind its accuracy is already being questioned.
Your Attorney Can Help Your Defense
An attorney that specializes in DUI/DWI is going to have the best perspective on how to handle your case if you're arrested for driving while high. There are several defenses available to you:
- Challenging the testing. Mouth swabs, urine tests, and blood tests can all be challenged in court. Results can be contaminated, someone's math can be wrong, or the test may not have the soundest of scientific backing.
- Challenging the chain of custody. Your attorney may be able to show that your test results had the opportunity to be tampered with or that the person drawing your blood wasn't qualified to do so.
- Challenging the definition of "intoxicated" or "impaired" by showing that you weren't showing any signs of impairment. Police have to have a good reason to pull you over. If the police camera on the cruiser's dashboard shows that you weren't driving in an erratic manner or behaving "high," your attorney could win your case.
For more information, contact a professional criminal defense attorney (such as one from Alexander & Associates, P.C.) in your area to help plan your defense.