Is Driving High a DUI?

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Can you get a DUI for driving high?

The simple answer is yes, but there is a lot that goes into proving a
driver is impaired due to the consumption of marijuana.

Cultural acceptance of marijuana is increasing and with it the laws surrounding its use are rapidly changing across the nation. Not long ago it was illegal to possess marijuana in all states let alone use it, and the legal consequences were significant. Starting in the mid 1990’s, several states began to legalize its use for medicinal purposes. In 2012, Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana and many states have done the same in the years that followed. As laws trend toward full legalization and the stigma of the drug fades into history, states are taking a closer look at its impact on drivers and the corresponding legalities of driving under the influence of marijuana.

Potential Impacts to Drivers

Several studies have shown measurable impacts to drivers under the influence of marijuana. Although they are much less than that of alcohol, the impacts can be significant depending on the potency and amount of cannabis consumed, and the means by which it was ingested. As with alcohol, the rate at which the drug impacts an individual’s body is also dependent on his or her size and metabolism.

Some ways in which marijuana can impact drivers include:

  • A mild decrease in reaction time
  • A reduction in overall motor skills
  • Difficulty with equilibrium
  • Inability to focus on the road
  • Overcautious handling of the vehicle such as excessive braking
  • Poor posture, which can impact the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle

Why is this a major issue?

Individuals driving under the influence of marijuana often underestimate their ability to safely drive in contrast to those under the influence of alcohol that tend to overestimate their ability. It is important to note that driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana simultaneously poses a substantially higher risk than driving under the influence of one or the other. Either way it is dangerous and should be avoided.

Legal Impacts to Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Although specific penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana vary from state to state, it is illegal to drive under the influence in all fifty states.

  • Since there is no breathalyzer test for marijuana, a blood sample is taken to measure the amount of THC in the bloodstream. In some states, refusal of the test can be a violation.
  • First time offenses where no one was harmed are typically considered misdemeanors, but not always. It is important to understand the charges by consulting an attorney.
  • Driving under the influence of marijuana is more challenging to prove than driving under the influence of alcohol as it requires additional evidence to establish guilt. The blood test results alone are not usually enough to convict in contrast to breathalyzer results when alcohol is involved. The arresting officer’s testimony and eyewitness testimony will factor in as well.
  • Since it is harder to prove an individual is driving under the influence of marijuana, there are often opportunities for a defendant to plead to a lesser charge.
  • You can still be charged with possession of an illegal substance even if you are not convicted of the DUI depending on the state’s cannabis laws.
  • If convicted, penalties range from a small fine to jail time.

What If You Are Arrested?

It is important to seek legal counsel if you have been arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. Since laws vary from state to state, you need to be sure your legal advice comes from attorneys who are familiar with the laws of the state in which you were arrested. If you are struggling with substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline (1-800-662-4357) right away.

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