Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana or other substances

Q – What is the difference between being under the influence of alcohol and marijuana?

Legally, none. If you have had enough alcohol or marijuana to effect you, even to the slightest degree, so that you are less able, either mentally or physically to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle, then you are driving illegally.

Q- How will they attempt to test me if pulled over?

They will first ask if they can look at your eyes. Say “No, sir!” This is a voluntary field sobriety test and you should not take it! They will then ask you to exit the vehicle. You must. This is an officer safety issue and you must comply. Do not use the vehicle to steady yourself when you get out. Do not use the vehicle for support when you walk to the rear of your vehicle.

They will then ask you if you are willing to perform some voluntary roadside sobriety maneuvers to help them evaluate your ability to drive safely this evening? Say “No sir!” They may then implicitly threaten you with arrest by saying “I will have to decide whether to arrest you based upon what I’ve seen so far.” Don’t let them change your mind. Doing the tests will not keep you from getting arrested. If they have gotten as far as asking you this question, you are probably getting arrested whether you do the tests or not! Don’t help them build the case against you by doing the roadsides.

After arrest, you will be asked to do a test of your blood for the purpose of determining the drug content in your system. If you refuse this test, you are subject to driver’s license revocation for a period of at least one year.  You may be eligible for early reinstatement of driving privileges with an Interlock Device installed in your car after two months.  On a first offense, DUI/DWAI (non felony, non death case) I usually recommend you take this test if your driver’s license is important to you.

Q  – If I get pulled over and the officer asks if I am the under the influence of anything, since marijuana is legal do I need to answer yes if I have smoked?

Don’t answer. Just change the subject.

Think of marijuana like alcohol.  Alcohol is legal to possess and consume. But if you drive impaired by alcohol you could be arrested. Marijuana is legal under state law (remember, it is still illegal under federal law) to possess and consume. But if you drive impaired by marijuana you could be arrested. You are still at risk.

Q- I smoke marijuana for medical purposes and feel that I am capable of driving.  Is this okay?

Just as marijuana and many other medical drugs affect your ability to drive safely, they also affect your ability to determine if you are safe to drive. If you have been smoking, don’t drive for at least four hours.

Q- What should I say to an officer if they ask me if I have been smoking and the last time I smoked was hours ago?

If it was over four hours ago, tell them. If it was less, don’t answer. Just change the subject.

Q- If I am not speeding or breaking any other law, can an officer still pull me over?

Not legally. Officers are required to have a “reasonably articulable suspicion of criminal conduct” to stop you.

Q- Will I need an attorney if they are going to press charges against me?

You have the right to have an attorney but are not required to have one. Even in serious felony cases you can waive your right to an attorney and choose to represent yourself. This is usually a bad idea.

DUI/DUID cases are complex. They usually include search and seizure 4th Amendment issues, Department of Health Rules and Regulations, constitutional, criminal, and evidence issues.  Possible consequences include jail, driver’s license loss, costs, classes, useful public service and a criminal history.  The consequences can affect you for the rest of your life. An attorney is usually a good investment.

Q- Will  I lose my license to drive? If so for how long?

We will fight for your license, but we may lose it. If you refused a test, you may be subject to revocation of your driver’s license for a period of one year or longer.  If you are revoked, you may be eligible for early reinstatement of driving privileges with an Interlock Device installed in your car after just two months.  If you took a test, a first offense loss is for nine months with the possibility of an Interlock license after one month.