Driving Stoned: Marijuana DUI Laws
Across the country, more and more states are legalizing marijuana, either for medical use or even recreational purposes. Currently, cannabis is illegal for recreational use in Pennsylvania, but possession of small amounts is decriminalized in several largest cities, including Pittsburgh.
As marijuana use becomes decriminalized, however, there has also been an increase in marijuana-related DUIs. A marijuana DUI can be every bit as serious as an alcohol-related DUI.
Do not hesitate to contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC if you have been arrested for marijuana DUI in the Pittsburgh area. We can help you through every part of the legal process that is necessary to bring about a successful conclusion to your case.
Understanding Marijuana DUI Laws
While everyone knows that drunk driving is against the law, many people don’t realize that all 50 states also prohibit driving while under the influence of drugs. State laws will typically define driving while under the influence under the following circumstances:
- Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher;
- Driving while under the influence of any intoxicating substance.
Because the police cannot use a breathalyzer to test for the presence of drugs, they will rely upon the more general prohibition against driving while under the influence.
This means that the officer’s subjective observations of your behavior leading up to your arrest will be critical. The prosecution will have to put on evidence that you were unable to operate a car safely. For example, they will have the officer testify to the following:
- You were driving erratically or committed a traffic violation
- Your eyes were dilated or exhibited other characteristics consistent with being high
- You were unable to speak clearly or follow directions
- Unusual behavior
- You performed poorly in field sobriety tests
In general, the prosecution will have to rely on the officer’s testimony that you were clearly impaired.
Per Se DUI Laws
Some states have what are referred to as “per se” DUI laws that apply in marijuana DUI or other drug DUI cases. This means that any amount of marijuana in your system can result in a DUI conviction. In these situations, the officer’s testimony regarding your impairment becomes less important.
Testing for the Presence of Marijuana
Once you are arrested, the police may request you to take a blood or urine test. The law varies by state, but in some states refusing to take a chemical test is a separate offense that can lead to additional penalties. If you can refuse the test without consequences, the prosecution will use your refusal as additional evidence of your guilt.
Medical Marijuana Patients and DUIs
Even if marijuana is legal for medical purposes, you can still be charged with DUI for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana can remain in your system for several days after your use, which can be an issue for people who use it daily to treat valid medical conditions. This can be particularly problematic in states with “per se” laws, where any amount of marijuana can lead to a conviction – the prosecution does not need to prove that the marijuana actually caused you to be impaired.
The Potential Penalties of a Marijuana DUI
Marijuana DUIs are aggressively prosecuted in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of a marijuana DUI, you face the following consequences:
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
- Mandatory drug treatment
The severity of your punishment will depend on your criminal history and the circumstances surrounding your offense.
How an Attorney Can Help
Even though marijuana has been decriminalized in and around Pittsburgh, don’t assume that you can’t get a DUI for driving while under the influence of marijuana. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand how Pennsylvania’s DUI laws apply to marijuana use. In addition, they can help you understand your rights before you are pulled over. You may not be able to avoid being charged with DUI, but you won’t help the police make their case against you. If you’ve already been charged, a criminal defense attorney can help you understand your options and the consequences you are facing.
Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to speak with a knowledgeable Pittsburgh marijuana DUI lawyer. Call us 24/7 at (412) 356-8667 or fill out our online form.