If you live in one of the states with legalized marijuana use, you may have noticed police officers stepping up their DUI patrols or even setting up checkpoints to look for intoxicated drivers. Because there exists no test that can detect recent marijuana use or marijuana intoxication (only THC residue stored in the body's fat cells), officers must rely only on physical and verbal cues to determine whether an individual is too impaired to drive. What behaviors or actions could land you in jail facing DUI charges for driving after using marijuana? Read on to learn more about how marijuana use can subject you to a DUI charge, as well as what you'll need to do to avoid a conviction.
What do officers look for when determining marijuana intoxication?
Even in states where marijuana is recreationally or medically legal, operating a vehicle under the influence is a misdemeanor (or sometimes even a felony if it involves property damage or injury to another). While you're still on the road, officers may look for signs of inattention, like weaving, crossing the center line, or driving well below the speed limit. Any of these (along with other violations like speeding or failing to signal before merging) can provide officers with the probable cause needed to pull you over.
Once you've had a face-to-face interaction with an officer, he or she may notice the odor of marijuana on your breath (or coming from your vehicle). The officer will also look at your eyes to see if they're reddened or glazed, and may even require you to perform a field sobriety test that will measure your balance and cognitive abilities. Failing any of these tests or giving other indications that you've recently ingested marijuana may lead to your arrest for DUI.
Do you have any potential defenses to a charge of driving under the influence of marijuana?
Because a positive marijuana test could indicate drug usage anywhere from a few hours to weeks before the accident, any conviction against you will need to rest on the testimony of the arresting officer. If this officer (and the prosecuting attorney) can't provide enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were too impaired from your marijuana use to safely drive, you won't be able to be convicted. Therefore, your best option is to bring light to flaws or inconsistencies in the arresting officer's testimony—even a single doubt can be enough to swing a jury in your favor.
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