While there are some major differences in the way police handle cannabis-impaired driving and drunk driving, most court systems hand down similar consequences for both offenses. If the court convicts you for driving while under the influence of marijuana, you can expect the ramifications to include a license suspension, a drug and alcohol awareness class, fines, probation and even jail time.
However, the way the prosecution will build their case against you is very different with stoned driving. They cannot simply conduct a breath test after pulling you over to determine if you used cannabis recently.
For example, in Washington State, police have two options for proving a driver is under the influence of marijuana. These options are:
- Observing signs, conducting field tests, and bringing in an officer trained in drug recognition; or
- Conducting a marijuana blood test to determine whether the driver is over the per se limit of 5 ng/mL.
What happens if I’m charged with a marijuana DUI?
As soon as possible after your stoned driving arrest, contact a local DUID lawyer to help you navigate the legal process, fight the charges against you and ensure your constitutional rights remain protected. Another important action you can take is to write down everything you can remember about the traffic stop, your interactions with the police, your arrest and testing, and any other related details. This can help your attorney build a stronger defense in your case.
While processes vary somewhat between different jurisdictions, you can expect to attend a/an:
Administrative Law Hearing
Most states take administrative action quickly following an arrest for stoned driving. This action revokes your driver’s license for at least 90 days in many states, even longer in some areas.
To fight this revocation or to get a conditional license allowing you to drive to work or school, you need to schedule a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Often, the time limit to set this hearing is a matter of days following your arrest, so it pays to act quickly.
Evidentiary hearings occur when your lawyer files motions to challenge the evidence against you. While they do not occur in every case, there are many things your attorney should investigate about any traffic stop and stoned driving arrest. This often includes the accuracy of the blood test, the testing procedures, if there are any questions about chain of custody for your blood sample and other technical questions about blood testing.
Many times, there are also questions about how the arresting officers handled your traffic stop and arrest. They must have had probable cause to stop you and cannot profile you simply because you look “like a pot smoker.” Your lawyer will examine the video of your arrest, analyze the police report and ensure police followed proper procedure and did not violate your rights.
Throughout the pre-trial period, your lawyer may engage in negotiations with the prosecution to reach a plea agreement. This usually calls for you agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for more control over the possible penalties. Your attorney should share any potential offers with you and discuss all of the pros and cons.
The goal of pre-trial negotiations is usually to mitigate the impact your arrest has on your life. If this is not possible, your case will continue to trial. Your lawyer can help you understand what to expect when it comes time to appear in court.
What consequences can I expect if the state convicts me of a marijuana DUI?
The stakes are high after a cannabis DUI arrest. You face serious penalties if convicted, and need an attorney who knows how marijuana DUIs work to build a strong defense and help you avoid the most serious consequences.
The penalties depend on how severely your state punishes drug-impaired driving. For a first offense in Washington State, for example, you could face:
- Between a day and 364 days in jail
- License suspension
- Up to $5,000 in fines and additional court expenses
- A mandatory alcohol and drug abuse course
A second conviction can mean a month or more in jail and increased fines. A third or subsequent conviction usually means at least three months in jail in Washington State.
By understanding the drugged driving laws in your state, you can often avoid a stoned-driving charge in the first place.
Protect your rights after a marijuana DUI arrest.
Once you have been arrested for marijuana impairment or are facing cannabis DUI charges, it is important to understand the applicable laws and processes.
By knowing what happens after police charge you with this type of offense, you can take quick and aggressive action. This is key, since the ramifications of a stoned-driving conviction can impact so many aspects of your everyday life. The more information you have, the better prepared you are to protect your future.
Barbara Bowden is an attorney and owner of The Law Offices of Barbara A.Bowden.
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