With the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, especially in the state of Colorado, laws concerning driving while under the influence of drugs (DUID) has gained some attention in the last decade. Due to the significant increase of individuals using marijuana or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis) the laws in Colorado have been adjusted.
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) 18 states have a zero tolerance policy for marijuana drug impaired driving. Colorado is the only state that has a reasonable inference law for TCH. The reasonable inference for THC impaired driving in Colorado is 5 nanograms. Legally, if more than 5 ng of THC is discovered in the driver’s blood, this information can be used against the driver in a court of law.
Blood Tests for Drugs
While the presence of 5ng of THC for a DUID is a similar concept to detecting 0.8% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), the tests are not equivalent by many standards. Although a blood test can provide the most accurate results for BAC, a breathalyzer test can be administered by the police office to the driver in question at the time of inquisition.
Drug testing for marijuana is not so simple. First, blood must be drawn and examined to determine if the driver tests positive for more than 5 ng of THC. Unfortunately, THC is fat soluble and stays in the body longer than alcohol found in the bloodstream. So even if the tests registers at 5 ng of THC or higher, the impairment effects could have worn off long before the individual was driving, especially for habitual users. The test regarding THC in marijuana is clearly flawed. If you are accused of DUID, especially for medical or recreational use of marijuana you need to seek immediate professional counsel from a criminal defense attorney.
“Drugs” Defined by Colorado Law
DUID regulations are not exclusive to marijuana and include illegal drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroine. Legislation in Colorado consider all impairing substances whether legal or illegal to be defined as a “drug.” Despite the commonplace of over-the-counter medicines, homeopathic remedies, prescription medication, medical and recreational use of marijuana, are all defined as “drugs” and can interfere with your ability to drive according to Colorado law.
Charged with DUID
A civilian may be suspected of driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol during routine or targeted traffic checkpoints. You may be accused of DUID if you are pulled over for a traffic violation such as erratic driving (swerving), running a stop light, or driving above the speed limit.
To be charged with a DUID, one must have consumed “drugs” of some sort and participated in the act of driving. Impairment can include the inability to mentally demonstrate clear judgment or lack physical control necessary to operate a motor vehicle. For example, driving while under the influence of marijuana can slow down one’s reaction time and alter ability to perceive accurate time and distance. Opioids and sedatives can impair thinking skills and memory as well as induce drowsiness. Cocaine and methamphetamines can cause user to become reckless and aggressive while driving.
In many cases if you are accused of Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) one’s diminished capabilities may be easily seen or glaringly obvious. Although, in other cases, the impairment may not be so apparent. Colorado DWAI Traffic Code Section 42-4-1301(1)(b) claims that any hindrance from drugs and alcohol that affect you even “to the slightest degree” are still considered an impairment.
Consequences of DUID
Impaired driving while under the influence of any drug is illegal. In most cases, Colorado laws considers DUID charges to be a misdemeanor for first time offenders. If you have additional charges, commit vehicular assault, homicide, or are a repeat offender, the DUID can bring felony charges.
If you are convicted of DUID in the state of Colorado, your license may be suspended. Fines, jail time, drug education courses, community service and points on your driving record are additional consequences that you may face. In the event your DUID is classified as a felony you may be sentenced to years in prison and have a mandatory parole of three years. Significant fines from a few thousand dollars to a half a million dollars can also be associated with Colorado DUID felony convictions.
Contact a DUID Defense Attorney
Driving while under the influence of drugs can have serious consequences; an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help. Do your best to recall all the details of your experience so you can inform your defense attorney. Your lawyer can collect all vital information to determine if you were wrongfully accused or pulled over without probable cause. Each case is individual and M. Colin Bresee is here to fight for your rights. Schedule a consultation today.