Driving Under the Influence—Marijuana
Marijuana is now legal both medically and recreationally in Colorado, and that has lead to an increased number of people driving with elevated levels of THC in their system. While marijuana use has been legalized, driving while under the influence of marijuana has not. As a result, increasing numbers of people that use marijuana recreationally or medically are being charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID). If you find yourself in this position, you should call the offices of Patterson Weaver Law immediately for a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys, all of whom have the experience and dedication to fight for you in what can often be scientifically complicated “Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana” cases.
Colorado and other states which have legalized recreational and medical marijuana have, at least as of yet, failed to come up with a roadside tests to determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana or other drugs. Everyone is likely familiar with the breathalyzer tests that law enforcement uses to detect whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol, as well as the 0.08% legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC). Presently, the only way to test for marijuana is via a blood test administered at either a hospital or police station.
Under Colorado statutes, any driver with 5 nanograms (that means one part per billion) or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that causes the "high") in their system can be prosecuted for DUID.
What are the Laws Related to “Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana” in Colorado?
The DUI statute in Colorado defines reads as follows:
". . . driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(f)."
Additionally, in marijuana DUI cases, the “Driving While Ability Impaired” statute often plays a significant role. While the District Attorney’s Office often has trouble proving a full-blown DUI on a marijuana case to a jury, it is often far easier for them to prove Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) because a DWAI conviction requires only that someone’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is impaired even to the slightest degree. See C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(g). Essentially, this means that if someone usually has the driving ability of 100, but after a drug or medication they are now at a driving level of 99, they are technically guilty of at least DWAI. In marijuana cases, this is often a far easier standard for a Deputy District Attorney (DDA) to prove.
As noted above, Colorado's marijuana DUI laws have adopted a presumption of impairment at 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. See C.R.S. 42-4-1301(6)(a)(IV). While that level may arguably have some impact in first time marijuana users, it should be irrelevant in determining impairment in regular users of pot, many of whom carry a baseline of THC in their blood of 15, 20, or even 30 nanograms per milliliter. This is because people that use marijuana regularly naturally carry high levels of THC, but have also often developed a tolerance to those levels. Unfortunately, the presumption of 5 nanograms per milliliter allows a DDA to argue that the defendant is presumed intoxicated simply because their THC is above that level.
What Are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Colorado?
The penalties for DUI of marijuana are:
First offense: 5 days to 1 year in jail, $600-$1,000 fine, maximum 9-month driver's license suspension, and up to 96 hours of community service.
Second conviction: 10 days to 1 year in jail, $600-$1,500 fine, maximum 1-year driver's license suspension, up to 120 hours of community service, and 2 years of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle after your license has been reinstated.
Third conviction: 60 days to 1 year in jail, $600-$1,500 fine, maximum two years of driver's license suspension, and 2 years of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle after your driver's license has been reinstated.
The penalties for a DWAI of marijuana are:
First conviction: between 2 and 180 days in jail, $200-$500 fine, up to two days of community service, and 8 points against your driving record with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Second and subsequent convictions: mandatory jail of between 10 days and 1 year. $600-$1,500 fine, up to 120 hours of community service, and 8 points against your driving record with the DMV.
How can an Attorney Help Me with My Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Case?
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs cases, especially those involving cannabis, demand a specialized level of experience and knowledge that most attorneys simply do not possess. An understanding of the science (or lack thereof) behind the testing for active THC levels is essential to presenting an effective defense to this type of DUI charge.
While working as a prosecutor with the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Criminal Attorney Patterson Weaver tried and won a complicated hearing on the admissibility of Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) testimony in Driving Under the Influence of Drugs cases generally, and in marijuana cases in particular. He won an award from the Pikes Peak Regional DUI Task Force for the effort, and the research, examination scripts, and arguments he used to win that hearing are still distributed to young DDAs all over the state as an example of how to prosecute cases with Drug Recognition Expert evidence. Now a private DUI Defense Attorney, Patterson Weaver uses the experience he obtained at the DA’s office in Colorado Springs to defend his clients charged with Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana and other drugs.
The experienced DUI Lawyers at Patterson Weaver Law have represented clients in Driving Under the Influence Cases in El Paso County (Colorado Springs), Pueblo County (Pueblo), Teller County (Cripple Creek), Fremont County (Canon City), and in other areas on a case-by-case basis. Call the DUI Attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law today to set up a free consultation and learn how we can help you fight for your rights and your liberty.