Can I Get a DUI for Driving High on Marijuana?
Everyone knows you can get a DUI for driving under the influence of alcohol. But do DUI laws also apply to driving under the influence of marijuana? And does it matter if you used marijuana legally?
Driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime in every state. And even if your marijuana use was lawful—because recreational marijuana use is legal in your state or you have a medical prescription—it doesn’t mean you can’t be convicted of a marijuana-related DUI.
How DUI Laws Apply to Marijuana
Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more can get you convicted of a “per se” DUI. But some states also have per se DUI laws that apply to marijuana. In other words, these states have laws that prohibit driving with a certain concentration of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) in your system. And the DUI laws in every state make it illegal to drive while actually impaired by marijuana (or any other drug).
Per se marijuana DUIs. To prove a per se marijuana DUI, a prosecutor would typically need to produce blood test results showing the driver was over the legal limit. If a prosecutor is able to do that, it doesn’t matter whether the person’s ability to drive was actually affected by marijuana. A per se conviction is based just on the amount of THC in the driver’s system.
Impairment DUIs. While all states have impairment DUI laws, they don’t all define “impairment” the same way. Proof that the marijuana (or other substance) affected the driver in “any way” is enough for a conviction in some states. But in other states, the prosecution must show a “substantial” or “significant” effect from the substance ingested. Evidence of impairment usually comes from the arresting officer’s observations of things like:
- poor field sobriety test (FST) performance
- slurred speech
- unusual behavior, and
- bad driving.
(Read more about what prosecutors must prove to get a DUI conviction and DUI defenses.)
Marijuana DUI Penalties
Generally, the penalties for a marijuana-related DUI are the same as those for an alcohol-related DUI conviction. The consequences of a first offense might include:
- license suspension of 90 days to a year
- fines ranging from about $500 to $2,000
- up to a year jail (but most first offenders don’t do substantial jail time)
- substance abuse treatment, and
- a term of probation.
However, state laws vary and lots of factors can influence sentencing. For instance, an offender who’s never been in trouble before will likely be treated more leniently than an offender with a long criminal record. And enhanced penalties typically apply for DUIs that involves injuries or deaths.
(Read about the DUI penalties specific to your state.)
Getting Legal Help
Anytime you’re arrested for driving under the influence, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a qualified attorney. An experienced DUI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.