Marijuana DUI Defense
If you are charged with a DUI based upon use of marijuana, you need a Marijuana DUI defense lawyer who understands the law and has the experience to provide you your best defense. The consequences for a marijuana DUI charge are the same as an alcohol related DUI. Your car will be impounded, you will face license suspension, jail time, fines, increased insurance costs, probation and potential treatment requirements. There are not only substantial consequences to a charge of DUI based on use of marijuana, there are significant evidentiary issues involved in a marijuana DUI and you should consult an experienced Marijuana DUI attorney as soon as possible.
Ms. St. Clair is an experienced marijuana DUI defense attorney with over 25 years of experience with marijuana charges and marijuana DUI's. She is a former senior prosecutor who has handled thousands of marijuana DUI related offenses. She understands the evidence relied upon by police and prosecutors and the weaknesses and problems inherent in that that evidence. More importantly she understands the substantial legal issues that recent changes in the law will present to someone accused of a marijuana DUI in Washington.
There have been significant changes in the marijuana laws in Washington state. See Blog- WA new marijuana laws-These changes will have significant impact on how police and prosecutors pursue marijuana DUI's . More importantly these changes present numerous opportunities to effectively defend a marijuana DUI case.
A person can be charged with DUI not only based on alcohol consumption but also for driving under the influence with drugs in their system. This is not limited to illegal drugs, but can also include prescription or over the counter drugs, and marijuana. This has always been the applicable law for DUI. In the past, prosecutors relied upon evidence of impairment and at times blood results with no direct evidence implications to those results. The new marijuana laws however added to the DUI laws, a per se level for marijuana of 5.00 nanagrams per millileter as evidenced in the blood. This is similar to the per se standard for alcohol of .08% blood alcohol.
Blood THC Level
Much like the per-se standard of .08 blood alcohol level for an alcohol related DUI charge, Washington state has set a per-se limit for blood THC for a marijuana DUI charge. Now a person can be charged with a marijuana DUI:
- by having a level of THC above the per se limit of 5.00 nanograms per Ml as evidenced by blood, or
- driving under the influence while affected by marijuana
- DUI under 21 YO is zero tolerance and over 0.00 nanograms is presumed intoxicated.
Prosecutors will handle DUI cases involving marijuana the same as they always have; expert witness testimony if the driver appears under the influence, which generally involves the officers observations and opinions, use of a Drug recognition expert (DRE), testimony by a toxicologist as to the effects of marijuana on driving, evidence of possession, which will include marijuana, pipes, baggies, etc., and admissions of a suspect. In this instance, marijuana and paraphernalia will be seized as evidence.
Prosecutors can now rely on per se blood test results as well. These tests will measure active THC in the blood and not stored as metabolized in the fat cells.
Officers will need to get a suspects blood tested within an hour of the stop as the dissipation rate is significant. THC levels can drop 50-80 Ng per ML to 5-6 Ng per Ml in one hour.
If a suspect refuses to give consent for a blood draw, the officer will decide whether or not to seek a search warrant for a blood draw. Police may seek a search warrant for blood evidence of intoxication outside the implied consent process normally relied upon.
Like any DUI, if there is probable cause for vehicular assault, the officer can obtain a blood draw without a search warrant. However if the level of injury is not yet apparent, as it must be “substantial bodily harm” as defined by statute, to support the probable cause, they would be prudent to and would likely seek a search warrant.
Because of the difficulties and delays associated with a blood draw, and considering the dissipation rate, in considering whether to seek a warrant, Police will decide how strong the case is without evidence of THC content, relying on such factors as:
- evidence of marijuana and paraphernalia
- bad driving
- clearly impaired suspect
- observations and opinions of the officer
- impairment determined by a DRE
- admissions of the suspect
If the evidence is strong enough without blood THC level, officers may decide not to seek a warrant.
However, if a person has a history of DUI, is involved in a collision, or if anyone is injured, these circumstances will all factor into whether or not they seek to use additional resources to gather evidence, eg; blood evidence.
Blood search warrants are by definition time sensitive and hence, most prosecutors' offices do not require review or approval before application to a Judge. Forms are provided to police agencies and can quickly be completed and a telephonic warrant obtained.
Officers must impound a vehicle under state law when they make an arrest for DUI or Physical Control. This is true for a marijuana related DUI, even if the officer is referring the case to the prosecutor's office for a charging decision instead of citing and releasing.
The new marijuana law, as well as the application to DUI laws in Washington is complex and legal issues surrounding application and enforcement of the laws are likely to be significant. Contact marijuana DUI lawyer Coleen St. Clair to discuss your defense.