With recreational use being legal in Colorado, many young adults may use the drug while at a party as an alternative to drinking alcohol. Young adults may also choose to use the drug at home as a way to relax after a long day. However, it is still illegal to drive while high. Doing so can lead to charges of driving while ability impaired (DWAI), which could have major negative consequences on a person’s everyday life, even if a person simply had a one-time lapse in judgement and does not have a criminal record.
Roadside tests performed to determine if a motorist is high have their faults. If a person is accused of drunk driving, police will generally perform a breath test, which is a generally reliable way to determine if a motorist is driving while intoxicated.
However, as of right now, breath tests for marijuana are not commonly used, and are not always reliable. Instead, motorists suspected of being high are often transported to the hospital where blood is drawn to test whether the motorist has used marijuana. This process is both time-consuming and expensive. In addition, should the case go to trial, special officers often must testify as expert witnesses — another complication in the process just to determine if the motorist should be convicted of DWAI. This is why it is so important for motorists accused of DWAI due to marijuana use obtain the services of experienced attorneys. Former prosecutors who understand how the criminal trial process work may be especially helpful in defending clients accused of DWAI.
As of right now, police generally won’t use breath tests to determine if a driver is high. This is because there is approximately a three-hour window in which a person is too high to drive after smoking marijuana. But the drug can stay in a person’s system for much longer than that, long after the high has worn off and a person is safe to drive. So, even if a breath test detects marijuana in a person’s system, if that three-hour window has passed then the motorist may be sober enough to safely drive.
However, 2020 may see a Breathalyzer that can detect whether a motorist is too high to drive. Devices are being developed by two companies that would be able to detect the substance in marijuana that causes a person to become high, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), within the aforementioned three-hour window. The challenge lies in the fact that the amount of THC that makes a driver high is hundreds of millions of times smaller than the amount of alcohol that causes a person to become intoxicated.
But not all police departments are willing to immediately start utilizing such technology, if it becomes available. Like motorists, they want to ensure that the technology is perfected before relying on it as a means for detecting whether a motorist is too high to drive. Until then, blood draws, despite their faults, may still be the default means of detecting whether a motorist should be charged with DWAI due to marijuana use.