Every year, approximately 1.3 million people in the United States are arrested for drug-related offenses. With marijuana now legal in Colorado and Washington, many governments are looking for effective ways to balance legal marijuana against the dangers of drugged driving. The following guide explores how law enforcement determines an individual’s level of impairment based on urine tests.
Like alcohol, marijuana impacts people in different ways. In most parts of the United States, an alcohol-related DUI occurs when an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above 0.08 percent. However, some people experience a significant reduction in driving ability above or below the amount. While a BAC of 0.02 percent may not impact some people, it could have a significant impact on the driving abilities of others. Likewise, a BAC of 0.20 percent would affects many people, but those suffering from chronic alcoholism may be able to drive with this BAC.
Since those who use marijuana on a regular basis often develop a tolerance, it can be difficult to determine the level of an individual’s impairment based solely on the amount of marijuana metabolites in his or her system.
On average, if an individual’s urine has THC levels above 10 ng/mL, he or she may be at an increased risk of a drugged driving conviction. However, this can vary based on the state where one lives.
The nature of the initial stop can also play an important role in determining guilt. If an individual is pulled over for a simple infraction like an expired tag or burned out light, it may be difficult to prosecute this person for unsafe driving. However, if an individual is pulled over for speeding or reckless driving, the presence of marijuana in a urine test could tip the balance in the favor of law enforcement.
An affirmative defense for drugged driving could include the length of time that one has used marijuana. While an individual who is smoking a joint for the first time may experience significant psychoactive effects, an individual who has developed a tolerance from years of smoking might only experience a mild buzz. While the level of the drug in both these individuals would be the same, the individual with a higher tolerance would probably be able to drive safely on most road systems in the United States.
It’s important to hire a lawyer if you’ve been arrested for drugged driving. Since drugged driving laws in most states are still in their infancy, it can be difficult to assess the state of a person in a way that is legally justified. In many cases, field sobriety tests are ineffective for those who have smoked or consumed marijuana. With the right lawyer, many drugged driving offenses can be pleaded as a lesser offense. Most important of all, don’t admit guilt in front of any law enforcement officer. While it’s a crime to lie to law enforcement officers, withholding information is not illegal. It’s important to remember that law enforcement officers aren’t your friend.