Marijuana DUI Charges in Washington
Get Help from Our Snohomish County DUI Attorney
- What is a marijuana DUI?
- What are the laws for marijuana DUI in Washington?
- How can I avoid a marijuana DUI?
- How do police test for marijuana during DUI stops?
- How is a marijuana DUI different from an alcohol DUI?
1. What is a marijuana DUI?
With the legalization of marijuana in Washington State, one of the biggest
public concerns is how the more widespread use will affect public safety,
particularly in relation to DUI cases. It’s important to understand
how marijuana impacts a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
When we consume alcohol, our level of impairment directly corresponds to
our blood alcohol. Likewise, when individuals are unimpaired and capable
of driving safely, our blood alcohol will reflect this. However, when
people smoke marijuana, it creates THC in the blood that is also measurable.
However, unlike alcohol which is metabolized as you sober up, THC remains
in the blood long after the “high” feeling is gone. This means
you can test positive for marijuana DUI impairment even if you feel fine.
Unlike alcohol, there really isn’t a field sobriety test that can
gauge your legal level of impairment. If an officer suspects marijuana
impairment, he or she may have you taken to the hospital for a THC blood
test, and the results can take weeks or months. Refusing the blood test
may come with huge sanctions.
The threshold for THC in your blood to make a legal determination of impairment
is VERY small. The moral of the story is, if you smoke pot, do not drive.
2. What are the laws for marijuana DUI in Washington?
Washington State already had laws against driving under the influence of
marijuana, but the burden was on the prosecutor to prove that the officer’s
suspicions of impairment meant that the driver was under the influence
Now a driver is presumptively guilty of the crime of marijuana DUI if you
have 5 nanograms or more of THC in your blood. The problem with this,
as opposed to alcohol, is that you can be over the limit long after the
effects have depleted. With this type of testing being so new, it is hard
to determine the amount of time you should wait before driving, and there
is no home THC blood test kit to determine the level, as of yet.
Unfortunately for many marijuana users, they do not realize just how low
the threshold of active THC in the blood must be present for a person
to be considered “under the influence.” With levels as low
as 0.5 nanograms as being considered to cause impairment, many drivers
are unexpectedly finding themselves under arrest for driving under the
influence of pot.
The level of alcohol in your blood is proportionate to your level of impairment.
However with marijuana, though the “high” feeling may have
dissipated, the THC can remain in your system and continue to trigger
positive test results, even if you feel fine. While blood tests can prove
whether you truly had enough active THC in your system for impairment,
this requires a hospital blood test and potentially months of waiting
What is the bottom line when it comes to driving under the influence of
weed? First, if you do decide to smoke marijuana, do not get behind the
wheel. However, if you have been arrested for driving under the influence
of marijuana, you need an experienced Snohomish County DUI defense lawyer
who is experienced in handling complex DUI cases. The Law Office of Mark
W. Garka, PLLC has the knowledge, experience, and resources you need to
help you get through this situation.
3. How can I avoid a marijuana DUI?
Initiative 502 passed, but be careful before you run out and celebrate.
There are still several things to consider before you begin recreational
use. Here are a few tips to help you avoid a Marijuana DUI:
Don’t smoke and drive. This one seems pretty simple, but you should give yourself some extra
time after the effects have worn off to reduce the risk of being over
Never drive with a cannabis-friendly bumper sticker. This will attract unwanted attention and will almost always ensure that
you will be stopped.
Do a quick inspection of your vehicle, making sure there are no obvious
problems, like broken taillights. This is another one that will get you pulled over quickly, and with the
cannabis laws being so new, it may be harder to get out of this stop with
a simple warning.
Make sure that you do not smell like cannabis when you leave the home. Use deodorant, perfume, etc., even if you haven't smoked in hours.
The slightest scent could give the officer reason to test your blood,
and to assume you'll be above the 5, or 0ng/ml limits.
Be cautious when driving with any amount of cannabis on your person, even
if it's under an ounce. Possessing even a gram is enough probable cause for an officer to search
you, and give you a THC blood test.
4. How do police test for marijuana during DUI stops?
The law says that officers are supposed to focus solely on active marijuana
and not inactive marijuana. This is another example of how a law that
is meant to protect your rights can really end up costing you. The only
way to prove that marijuana is inactive is to have a blood test done at
the hospital. Receiving the results of these tests can take weeks or even months.
Most courts give you the right to refuse the test, but the consequences
can be quite severe. If you are suspected of driving under the influence
of pot, an officer who is trained in drug recognition, referred to as
a “drug recognition expert,” will determine if you have been
impaired due to drugs other than alcohol. It is easy to see why most people
would elect not to undergo these tests, because you have no way of determining
how much of an “expert” the officer really is, or how they
can make an accurate decision based on slightly abnormal actions.
Being sick or having a lack of sleep can often result in some of the actions
that can appear similar to being impaired by marijuana, and if you smoked
in the last day or so, there is a good chance you could end up in jail.
Rather than receiving a marijuana DUI, it would be better to refuse the
initial test, right? Not so fast. As soon as you are asked to do anything
such as take a drug test or answer any questions beyond your name, address,
etc., be sure to call a Snohomish DUI attorney. Typically, refusing these
tests will earn you a driver’s license suspension for a year or
longer, and with the implied consent law, may be used as an admission of guilt.
5. How is a marijuana DUI different from an alcohol DUI?
While Washington State has become one of the first states to legalize marijuana,
both the law and public awareness are struggling to cope with how this
legalization affects our DUI laws, and driving while under the influence
of marijuana is a murky issue.
Unlike alcohol, the active chemicals of marijuana remain in our system
long after the “high” feeling has disappeared. This means
that we have no way of gauging whether we could possibly test positive
for driving under the influence of weed. The implication of this is that,
even if you feel fine, you could be in danger of getting a
DUI if you drive after smoking weed.
To further complicate matters, officers have no easy field tests in regards
to assessing measurable impairment. Unlike alcohol impairment, which can
be objectively measured by the use of a breathalyzer in conjunction with
field sobriety tests, marijuana impairment requires you to submit to a
hospital blood test, which can take months to receive the results.
While your first inclination may be to refuse a blood test, that in itself
can carry enormous sanctions under the law. The bottom line is that, if
you are suspected of a marijuana DUI in Washington State, you need to
consult an attorney immediately, so that you will know exactly how to proceed.