In the eyes of the law in Colorado, “stoned” driving is drunk driving. The distinction, or lack thereof, is important because Colorado is one of only four states in which it is legal to purchase, possess, and consume certain amounts of marijuana. The same is true, and has been for a long time, with regard to alcohol. For both substances, however, it is not legal to consume them to the point of impairment and then operate a vehicle. In other words, just as drinking and driving can lead to a DUI arrest, so can smoking or ingesting marijuana and driving. That’s right – recreational or medical marijuana use coupled with driving a car, truck or other vehicle can lead to a marijuana DUI arrest. Whether your DUI arrest concerns alcohol, marijuana, or a combination of substances, you are in urgent need of a skilled and experienced Denver DUI attorney.
12% of Colorado DUI Cases Involve Marijuana
Statistics are still being gathered regarding the prevalence of marijuana in Colorado cases. The drug has only been legal since January 1, 2014. As with alcohol, you must be 21 years of age to purchase marijuana, unless there is a medical purpose. While it is legal to drive with marijuana in your car (for the purposes of transporting a legal quantity of it within the state), it is not legal to drive while smoking marijuana or after smoking it to the point of being stoned.
Stoned driving, in the eyes of Colorado law, is an objective, rather than subjective, issue. In other words, it does no matter whether you felt stoned or not before or during driving. If you are pulled over by a Colorado police officer with probable cause that you are driving under the influence, you may be required to take a test to measure the amount of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in your system. The fact that it is the test, rather than your subjective view that matters is what makes the measure of stoned driving objective rather subjective. The stoned driving test is commonly a swab of your saliva or blood, and it measures nanograms per milliliter of THC in the bloodstream. If the test produces a measurement of 5ng/ml or higher, the law is allowed to infer that you were driving under the influence of marijuana. Currently, about 12%, or one in every eight individuals arrested in Colorado for DUI, are deemed “stoned drivers” rather than “drunk drivers.”
Penalties for Marijuana DUI Conviction the Same as Alcohol DUI Conviction
If you are convicted of DUI in Colorado, you will face the same penalties whether the underlying substance was alcohol or THC. You are looking at fines and fees, suspension of your driver’s license, alcohol and drug education, compulsory attendance at a victim impact panel, and even jail time. As such, it is imperative that you rely on the skill of an experienced Colorado DUI defense attorney to protect your rights and mount the strongest possible legal defense.