Both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are now legally available for purchase and consumption in the State of Washington, but driving under its influence is still strictly illegal. Individuals the age of 21 or older are able to possess and privately use marijuana in Washington, but because of this fact, officers are on the hunt for those who are driving while intoxicated by the effects of cannabis.
Experienced Washington marijuana DUI attorney James Curtis at The Curtis Firm can help with your DUI case. Just because you are charged with a crime, does not mean that you are guilty.
What is Marijuana?
This may seem like a silly question to many who know well what it is, but marijuana's legalization has created a variety of types of the drug as well as many ways to consume it.
Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. The primary way that marijuana is consumed is by smoking the rolled leaves, commonly referred to as a "joint." It may also be smoked by using:
- a water pipe (e.g., a "bong");
- a "regular" pipe; and
- blunts (marijuana leaves rolled in cigar wraps).
Marijuana can also be consumed in other ways, such as, but not limited to:
- brewed in tea;
- cooked into foods ("edibles" like brownies, cookies, or candy);
- inhaled via vaporizers ("vapes"); or
- applied via the form of oil or lotion.
What Makes Marijuana Intoxicating?
Marijuana is intoxicating or gets you "high" because of the presence of a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance called "delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol" (THC). THC attaches to the receptors in the brain and affects a person's abilities and induces certain feelings.
Marijuana can significantly impact a person's ability to drive by:
- affecting mood;
- causing mild hallucinations;
- affecting a person's sense of time and space;
- slowing a person's cognition (ability to think); and/or
- decreasing a person's reaction time.
Elements of a DUI Marijuana Charge
To prove a case of Marijuana DUI in Washington, the prosecutor is required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each of the essential elements of the crime. These include that you:
- operated a motor vehicle and a blood or urine test detected 0.05 nanograms of THC or more (or any amount of THC if under age of 21); or
- operated a motor vehicle while affected by marijuana.
The prosecutor must prove that you were either operating the vehicle (e.g., driving) or had physical control of the vehicle.
Blood Test & License Suspension for DUI Marijuana
If you consent to the blood draw and your THC levels are above 0.05 nanograms per milliliter of blood, you will be arrested by Washington State law enforcement for Marijuana DUI. However, if you are under the age of 21, any amount of THC in your blood is illegal, and you can be arrested.
If this occurs, your driver's license will be suspended:
- 90 days for a first-time offender; or
- 2 years after a prior DUI conviction.
If instead you refuse to consent to the blood draw, you may still be arrested for a Marijuana DUI. When an officer believes you are intoxicated as the result of drugs, he or she can still arrest you for a DUI offense. A refusal to consent to the test will also result in a driver's license suspension of:
- 2 years for a first-time offender; or
- at least 3 years if you have a prior DUI conviction.
Penalties for Marijuana DUI
The penalties for a Marijuana DUI conviction are the same as a DUI for alcohol or a DUI for other drugs. Depending on the facts of the case, the charge may be a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties are severe and can greatly affect your life, your finances, and your freedom.
The typical penalties for a DUI due to marijuana are listed below but can vary according to the circumstances of each unique case.
- First Offense
- 24 hours to 364 days in jail
- fines ranging anywhere between $823 to $5,000
- driver's license suspension between 90 days to 2 years
- Second Offense
- 30 days to 364 days in jail
- fines ranging anywhere between $1,015 to $5,000
- driver's license suspension between 2 years to 3 years
- Third Offense or Subsequent Offense:
- 90 days to 364 days in jail
- fines ranging anywhere between $1,805 to $5,000
- driver's license suspension between 3 to 4 years
A marijuana DUI can be a felony when certain circumstances exist. If your marijuana DUI is a felony DUI, the possible penalties include the following:
- a prison term for a maximum duration of up to 5 years;
- a maximum possible fine of up to $10,000; and
- a driver's license suspension of 1 to 3 years.
Collateral Consequences of a Marijuana DUI
If convicted of a marijuana DUI in Washington, it is not only the criminal penalties you have to think about. Other consequences can also occur, including but not limited to:
- difficulty to get to work;
- potential loss of your current job;
- effects on your enrollment in school or college; and/or
- required drug treatment classes.
Unexpected consequences can greatly affect your life, but with the right Washington DUI lawyer at your side, you can defend your case and your rights.
How to Defend Your Marijuana DUI Charge
Do not assume you are guilty just because you were charged with DUI Marijuana. You and your attorney can raise defenses to challenge the prosecutor's case, including but not limited to:
- Inadmissible Field Sobriety Tests: Field sobriety tests are a common tool used to determine intoxication. However, these tests are far from accurate and often lead to false positives.
- Inadmissible Blood Tests: A blood test that shows 0.05 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood is required to prove DUI marijuana (under the blood test). However, these tests are often performed incorrectly. Further, just because a person has 0.05 nanograms of THC in his or her blood does not mean that person is intoxicated. THC does not leave the body the same way alcohol does, and false positives of intoxication are far too common.
- Unconstitutional Police Conduct: When a Washington police officer violates your constitutional rights, the evidence against you can be suppressed, meaning it can no longer be submitted as evidence. This may help you get your charges reduces or even dismissed.
Consult a Washington Marijuana DUI Attorney
If you or someone you care about has been arrested for marijuana DUI in Tacoma or the surrounding area, you need an experienced Washington marijuana DUI attorney to defend your case and protect your constitutional rights.
Experienced Washington DUI attorney James Curtis at The Curtis Firm can help with your criminal case. Contact us today for a consultation. We gladly serve Pierce County, King County, Thurston County, Tacoma, Lakewood, and Spanaway.