While there has been a wave of states decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana over the past few decades, drivers can still get into trouble when driving under its influence. Indeed, state laws are not always clear about when someone can drive after smoking marijuana.
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. When consuming marijuana became legal, it created a challenge for drivers and law enforcement alike. How should police deal with those who consume marijuana and then get behind the wheel of a car? There are a few important things to know about driving legally after smoking marijuana.
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Is Against the Law
If you consume marijuana and the drug renders you “substantially incapable, mentally and/or physically, to safely operate a vehicle,” you are breaking the law. Specifically, doing so violates the state’s DUI law, contained in Colorado Revised Statute section 42-4-1301.
However, this does not mean that it is illegal to smoke marijuana and drive. It merely means that you cannot be “under the influence of marijuana”—and there is a difference. Unlike DUI alcohol DUI laws, there is no threshold amount of marijuana that will render you unable to safely drive. Thus, in a Colorado marijuana DUI case, you are not guilty of a crime unless the prosecution can prove that your ability to drive was impaired by marijuana.
The Level of THC in Your Blood Matters
While there is no threshold amount of marijuana that will conclusively establish that you were under the influence, the law allows certain assumptions if your marijuana levels are high enough. If you have more than five nanograms of the active metabolite of marijuana (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC”), there is a permissible inference that you drove under the influence of marijuana.
Refusing a Blood Test May Come with Serious Consequences
Under state law, all drivers implicitly consent to take a chemical test upon being arrested for a DUI. Thus, until police officers place you under arrest, you are under no obligation to consent to a blood test. So, if a police officer casually asks you to take a blood test, you can say no without fear of punishment.
However, if you are under arrest for a marijuana DUI, then refusing a blood test will result in administrative penalties, including:
- A one-year driver’s license suspension;
- Being placed on the list of Colorado persistent drunk drivers (PDDs);
- Mandatory drug and alcohol treatment;
- Installation of an ignition interlock system; and
- Additional car insurance requirements.
Also, prosecutors may be able to use the fact that you refused to take a blood test as evidence of your guilt in a subsequent DUI case. That being the case, the decision of whether to take a blood test upon a marijuana DUI arrest is a challenging one. On one hand, proving that you were under the influence of marijuana without chemical test results may be more difficult. However, on the other hand, refusing a test comes with automatic penalties.
Prosecutors Must Prove Unsafe Driving
Regardless of the THC levels in your blood, to convict you of a Colorado marijuana DUI, prosecutors must show that you could not drive safely due to the level of marijuana in your system. If you have more than five nanograms of THC in your blood, this may be easier for the prosecution, but it is still far from a guarantee.
For example, to prove that someone is under the influence of marijuana, prosecutors may try to use any of the following factors:
- You violated a traffic law;
- You were speeding or driving too slowly;
- You failed to stay in your lane; or
- You caused an accident.
Additionally, police officers can rely on certain observations during a traffic stop. For example, if you look or act “high,” have marijuana paraphernalia in the car, or have marijuana in the car, officers may use this to support their argument that you were under the influence.
Evidence of Marijuana Intoxication May Be Inadmissible
If you provide a blood sample and return a positive result for marijuana, the test results will not automatically be admissible at trial. The same is true for an officer’s observations of intoxication or any evidence an officer recovers during a traffic stop. Through your lawyer, you can file a motion to suppress to challenge the admission of any evidence an officer obtains during a DUI traffic stop.
For example, the following may form the basis of a motion to suppress evidence in a marijuana DUI case:
- The officer did not have a valid reason to pull you over;
- The officer did not have probable cause to arrest you for DUI;
- The officer illegally searched your car; or
- The officer took a statement from you without advising you of your rights.
You can also challenge the admissibility of chemical test results if the test was not performed according to state law or if there was some issue with how the lab processed your sample. The takeaway is that driving legally after smoking marijuana is possible in some situations. However, it depends on the level of marijuana in your system and whether there are any signs that the drug impaired your ability to drive.
Reach Out to an Experienced Marijuana DUI Charges Attorney
While the recreational use of marijuana is legal, driving under the influence of the drug is not. However, legally driving after smoking marijuana is possible. So, just because you had marijuana in your system does not make you guilty of DUI. At the Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein aggressively defends clients facing Colorado marijuana DUI charges. He commands an impressive knowledge of the state’s complex DUI laws, as well as significant experience handling these difficult cases. To learn more about the DUI laws in Colorado and to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Colorado marijuana DUI charges lawyer, call the Rubinstein Law Offices today. You can also connect with us through our online form.