How Colorado is addressing DWI/DUI Issues surrounding Legalized Marijuana Use

iStock_000006746569XSmall.jpgCritics often oppose marijuana legalization because of their concerns about drivers operating under the influence of marijuana. Intoxicated driving often carries with it harsh penalties. In Texas, a person’s first offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a Class B Misdemeanor. The offender could face a fine of up to $2,000 and imprisonment ranging from 72 hours to 180 days. He may also have to complete community service varying from 24 hours to 100 hours. His license could be suspended and he would face a surcharge from DPS of $1,000 or $2,000 per year for three years. If one commits a second or third offense, the penalties rise dramatically and the offender could face 10 years in the penitentiary.

Now that Colorado has legalized marijuana use, Colorado legislators have devised a regulatory framework to guide law enforcement in dealing with marijuana DWI issues. The regulations allow law enforcement to administer a test to check for the blood content of THC (the psychoactive marijuana ingredient). If a driver has five nanograms of THC in her blood, she would be considered too impaired to drive and could be ticketed. If prosecutors charge a driver with having five nanograms of THC in their blood, the regulations allow the driver to rebut the allegation that she is too impaired to drive. It is interesting to note that in all prior failed marijuana DWI bills, if a driver tested above the legal five nanograms limit, the consequence would be an automatic conviction almost every time. Under the enacted marijuana DWI law however, there are no automatic convictions and the driver can argue even though he had five nanograms of THC in his blood, that he was still an unimpaired driver.

While law enforcement can use the finding of five nanograms of THC in an offender’s blood to prosecute the offender, the regulations prohibit prosecutors from using the fact that the offender is a medical marijuana user. If the offender possessed a valid medical marijuana registry ID card, which could indicate that the person is a regular user of marijuana, a prosecutor could not use that fact against an offender in the prosecutor’s case in chief. Before an officer can subject a driver to a marijuana blood test, the officer must have “probable cause” that the driver is impaired. Under Colorado’s regulations, an officer could not use the sole fact that a driver possesses a medical marijuana card to determine there is probable cause to subject a driver to a marijuana blood test.

Though there are flaws with Colorado’s regulations, such as the fact that five nanograms of THC could remain in a user’s blood stream for several days after marijuana use, the regulation is a good start in developing sensible marijuana policies. Regardless of the legal status of marijuana, one is advised to always heed all DWI laws and contact a criminal defense attorney immediately if he or she faces a DWI violation.

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Gilbert Garcia has been Passionately Pursuing Justice for over 30 years and founded The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm in 2008. The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm is a boutique law firm, specializing in Criminal Defense. Gilbert represents adults and juveniles accused of a crime and who have with a felony, misdemeanor or record cleaning case. Conveniently located on the courthouse square to serve Montgomery and Walker Counties. Gilbert became Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1989. The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm is located at 220 N. Thompson St., Suite 202, Conroe, TX 77301.

Drug Related Charges may include: Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of Dangerous Drug, Manufacturing a Dangerous Drug/Controlled Substance, Delivery or Intent to Deliver Marijuana/Dangerous Drug/Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and many other drug related charges.