Grand Junction Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Lawyers
In Colorado we’ve seen an explosion in the number of arrests for Driving Under The Influence of Marijuana – or what is commonly referred to as DUID – Marijuana, and its lesser included offense of Driving While Ability Impaired by Marijuana. With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, law enforcement and lawmakers have established a "per se" limit for THC blood content for drivers (similar to the .08 limit for alcohol). The limit is 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of whole blood (ng/ml). On the blood test results we see from the three main laboratories here in Colorado, this level is referred to as "∆9-THC." The 5 nanogram standard is largely based on a 2005 study from a team of international scientists led by Germany's Dr. Franjo Grotenherman.
DUID prosecutions typically focus on the level of active THC in the blood, a figure that varies widely based on the potency of the marijuana, the frequency of use, and the manner in which it was taken into the body. When inhaled, the active THC level generally spikes at 50-plus nanograms immediately after inhalation, then dissipates rapidly, usually disappearing within one to four hours for occasional users. The difference for heavy users, or individuals who medicate almost continuously around the clock, is that they already have background levels of active THC leftover from their last use. Critics of the per se THC level argue that high levels of active THC may remain in the blood long after use, perhaps up to 24 hours, whereas driving impairment that would negatively affect driving occurs closer to the time the THC was consumed. Proponents of per se THC levels argue a blood alcohol content of .08 percent corresponds approximately to a THC concentration in whole blood of 4-5 nanograms per milliliter. However not all experts agree - some experts argue that the per se limit should be as high as 15 ng/ml.
A comparison of blood alcohol levels and blood THC levels is not comparing apples to apples. Where blood alcohol content can be somewhat accurately measured and correlated with driving impairment, it is much more difficult with cannabis. This is due in part to the fact that alcohol is water-soluble, whereas cannabis is stored in the fat and metabolized differently, making a direct correlation with driving behavior difficult to measure. Although there have been measures to reform the 5 nanogram per se limit in Colorado, the police and prosecutors still argue that 5 nanograms of active THC is the per se level and will try to bring in their state "expert" to testify that 5 nanograms means you are unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. Inexperienced and uneducated prosecutors sometimes don’t understand the difference between active and inactive THC levels in the blood. At Peters & Nolan, LLC, we believe that if the scientific community lacks consensus on the per se levels of THC that all DUID-Marijuana cases can be defendable.
There are many ways that a Colorado police officer can try and determine if you have over the legal limit of THC in your system. Unlike with alcohol, there is no breathalyzer test that can be administered roadside. However, officers may still have you perform a field sobriety test. These tests usually involve physical or mental tasks, such as asking you to walk a straight line and then turn around or to stand on one leg for an extended period of time. These tests are not 100% conclusive, and failing them does not prove that you drove under the influence of cannabis.
If the officer feels they have probable cause that you have taken some sort of substance, they may want to test you further. There are four tests that can be performed to determine if you are using marijuana. None of them can be administered roadside, however. Hair, urine, blood, and saliva can all be used to detect marijuana in your system. However, only blood and saliva actually detect active THC. Colorado officers most often use blood tests for this reason.
If you have been asked to perform a field sobriety test, you have the right to refuse in Colorado. However, if a police officer deems it appropriate to administer a blood (or any of the other three kinds) test, you legally cannot refuse. Colorado follows the rule of Expressed Consent. Meaning, by simply having a license, you consent to chemical drug testing. If you refuse despite this, there are several penalties you could face. You could have your license revoked. In which case, you will be required to attend drug education classes before it can be reinstated. You may also be designated as a "persistent drunk driver" (PDD), which means you will be required to have an ignition interlock for at least two years – even if there was no alcohol in your system when tested – and be required to attend classes on the dangers of driving under the influence. Finally, you may be required to get SR-22 insurance, which is an insurance mandated for high-risk drivers.
Being convicted for a DUID usually means the revocation of your license as well as other possible penalties. The penalties are determined by the number of times you have been charged with a DUID in the past.
- First offenders: Your license may be suspended for up to nine months. You may face anywhere from five days to one year in jail. A fine of $600-$1,000 may incur and you may be required to perform 48-96 hours of public service.
- Second offenders: Your license can be suspended for up to a year. You may face ten days to one year in jail. A fine of $600-$1,500 may incur and you may be made to give 48-120 hours of community service.
- Third or more offenders: You face up to two years of license suspension. In terms of jail time, it can be anywhere from 60 days to a year. Similar to second offenders, you can be given a fine of $600-$1500 and 48-120 hours of community service.
If you have offended three or more times within seven years: Along with the penalties in the above section, your license may be taken away for five years, and you will be regarded as a habitual traffic offender.
If charged with a DUID, you may be facing extreme penalties. A suspended license means you lose out on driving yourself, which, for some people, means losing out on transportation altogether. That can cost you your job and make it even more difficult to find a new one. Not to mention your insurance rates could skyrocket as a result of your charge. That’s why you need a strong criminal defense lawyer on your side.
A good attorney will know exactly how best to defend you in court. A few possible defenses include:
- Your blood test showed less than 5 nanograms of THC, meaning you were not over the legal limit
- The police officer did have not probable cause for pulling you over
- There were problems or errors with the blood test
- You were not lawfully arrested
- Your driving was not actually impacted by the drugs, meaning that you were still following all other traffic laws
- You were not told your rights during your arrest
There are endless ways to defend a DUID in court, but we may be able to figure out the best defense for you. If you or a loved one have been arrested for a DUID contact Peters & Nolan, LLC at (970) 243-4357 for a free initial consultation. We have a wealth of experience as Grand Junction criminal defense lawyers and know our way around the courtroom. The prosecution won’t wait to build their case, and neither should you.
- Charges: Driving under the influence of drugs
∗ Result: Not guilty at trial
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∗ Not all criminal cases are the same. These results are from actual cases handled by the attorneys at Peters & Nolan, LLC. This is not a representation, guarantee or promise as to the results or outcome of your particular matter.
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Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.
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