The legalization of recreational marijuana in 2020 has opened a growing legal pitfall – marijuana DUIs. Here’s what you need to know about the state’s DUI penalties:
What exactly is legal/illegal?
Possession is, of course, legal, provided that you are 21 years of age or older and do not exceed the allowable limit. However, the laws regarding operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana are similar to alcohol.
If you are caught behind the wheel with 5 nanograms of THC or more in your bloodstream, or 10 nanograms or more in your urine or saliva within two hours of driving, you can be prosecuted.
People with a valid medical marijuana card are exempt from the above THC limits, however if a police officer determines that you are excessively impaired based on their observation, you can still be prosecuted.
“Excessively impaired” in these cases is a subjective judgement. Unlike blood-alcohol measurements, there is currently no fool-proof, precise way to judge cannabis impairment.
While 5 nanograms can observably impair one person, it may have no noticeable effect on another. Furthermore, testing of blood and bodily fluids is difficult as THC can remain in your system for weeks after use.
Marijuana DUI penalties
A marijuana DUI is subject to the same penalties as an alcohol DUI. Such penalties range from court supervision to prison. Penalties may be harsher or lighter depending on your criminal history, prior DUIs for example, and additional factors related to your arrest, like a car accident with injuries.
Without additional charges, a cannabis-DUI first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison and a fine of $2,500, along with court costs and fees.
You may also be required to complete classes, submit to a drug evaluation and possible treatment, and pay damages to victims that may have been involved.
A suspension of your driver’s license is likely. Be aware that refusing testing can result in a much longer suspension than simply failing a test. Under some conditions, first offenders may be eligible to keep driving with a Monitored Device Driving Permit.
If you’re reading this, you may be facing marijuana DUI trouble. Hiring an experienced attorney is your quickest way back to life-as-usual.