Though many marijuana users claim the effects of the drug are benign, especially when compared to alcohol, the State of Colorado disagrees. Driving under the influence of marijuana can get you arrested. And if you are convicted on a DUI drug charge, you face the same penalties as those for an alcohol-related DUI - including a fine, possible jail time and the loss of your driver's license
There is still much to be learned about the effects of marijuana on driving abilities, the observation and evaluation of impairment, the effects of combined consumption of alcohol and marijuana, and other aspects of marijuana impairment. In this blog post, we will discuss some of these issues. We will also touch briefly on possible defenses that can be employed in DUI drug cases.
The legal limit in Colorado is 5 nanograms of active THC (tetrahydrocannibinol) in the bloodstream. At that level or higher, you can be charged, and at trial, the jury will be instructed that it may infer that you were under the influence of marijuana. An astute defense attorney will argue against this inference. For example, if you are a regular marijuana user, you could retain 5 nanograms of THC in your blood or more, and still be sober.
There is currently no reliable "breathalyzer" for measuring blood THC content as there is for blood alcohol content. Instead, a blood THC content measurement is obtained through a blood draw. You can refuse to allow a blood draw, but if you do, you will lose your driver's license, just as you would if you refuse a breath test. As in a DUI alcohol case, a defense attorney will examine how the blood was drawn, handled and tested, looking for a way to suppress this evidence.
If you use marijuana and drive, here are some additional things to keep in mind:
- The "absorption curve" is longer for edible marijuana products than for smoked marijuana or alcohol. You could be found to be under the influence of marijuana six, eight, ten or more hours after consuming edible marijuana.
- If you are stopped, don't perform any roadside sobriety tests. The officer could arrest you based on your behavior.
- Be polite, respectful and don't argue with the police officer. Let your lawyer argue on your behalf in court.
- Having an open container of legal recreational or medicinal marijuana in your car is illegal.
- There are enhanced penalties for marijuana-impaired driving when a child is in the vehicle.
- You can still be charged with marijuana-impaired driving even if you have a Colorado medical marijuana card.
- If you are arrested, know that there are numerous possible defenses to DUI drug charges. Get legal help from an experienced attorney.