Can I be Charged with a Marijuana DUI in DC?
Let’s begin with a little history. Personal use of marijuana by adults over the age of 21 was legalized in the District of Columbia in 2015 under local law. This means that as long as there is no intent to sell, you can possess and use up to two ounces of marijuana, recreationally, on private property without penalty of law. It does, however, remain illegal under federal law to possess marijuana.
But it is still illegal to drive if you are under the influence of weed, and if arrested, you can be charged with a DUI and face stiff fines and even jail time. The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are the same as driving under the influence of alcohol and may include up to 180 days in jail and/or $1000 fine, and an automatic six-month suspension of your driver’s license even for a first offense.
Facts about marijuana
The active ingredient in marijuana is THC. Unlike alcohol, which metabolizes quickly and will only show up in a chemical test while you are impaired, THC remains in your body for several days, or possibly even weeks, after it is smoked or ingested. This means that a chemical test may be positive for THC even if you consumed marijuana three or four days ago. Because of this, standard field sobriety tests, breath, blood, and urine tests designed to determine whether you are impaired and under the influence of alcohol, are not necessarily reliable for someone who has used marijuana. In addition, the DC criminal code does not state how much THC must be in your system for you to be considered impaired. So, any amount found through a chemical test constitutes DUI. In other words, you don’t actually have to be “under the influence” to be arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana.
How does law enforcement prove a marijuana DUI?
To be charged with a marijuana DUI, law enforcement must prove that a driver is under the influence of marijuana to the degree that they can’t follow the rules of the road and operate a vehicle safely. Just as with alcohol, their focus during a traffic stop is to document, through both observation and standard field sobriety tests, the driver’s coordination, judgement, and reaction times. Were you following all traffic laws…stopping at stop signs and red lights, using your turn signals, yielding to pedestrians? Did you stay within your driving lane on the road? Did you exercise the appropriate caution when driving? This is all very subjective and inconclusive.
If the officer smells the odor of marijuana, he/she will also question you about your use and when you last consumed weed. It is in your best interest to remain silent and not discuss or try to explain your marijuana use with the officers. By doing so, you’re only helping law enforcement make their case by giving them first-hand evidence of marijuana use that may be used against you.
Regardless of whether you were consuming marijuana before driving or even that day, after speaking with the police and voluntarily taking the field sobriety tests, you will most probably be arrested for suspicion of DUI.
Hire an experienced DC marijuana DUI lawyer
Any DUI charge should be considered a serious matter. The most important thing you can do after your arrest is call an attorney with expertise in marijuana DUIs immediately. Proving a marijuana DUI is different than proving an alcohol DUI. Field sobriety tests, as well as chemical tests were designed to prove alcohol consumption and impairment, and are not necessarily effective in proving marijuana use or impairment. A knowledgeable attorney can challenge this evidence and make positive recommendations to help your case even before the trial takes place.
Contact Jay Mykytiuk today
If you’re looking for an experienced criminal defense law firm that will fight for your rights throughout the marijuana DUI criminal process, contact Jay P. Mykytiuk, Trial Attorney. Mr. Mykytiuk has successfully represented individuals throughout Washington D.C. who have been arrested and charged with a marijuana DUI. Contact us today at 202.505.5863 to discuss your case.