Colorado was one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. As with other drugs that impair your ability to drive, impairment while driving can involve many penalties.
Not as severe as driving under the influence (DUI), DWAI occurs when the driver’s ability is impaired by drugs or alcohol or a combination of them. The DUI involves a charge of being so impaired that the driver can’t safely operate their vehicle. In contrast, DWAI can involve the simple consumption of alcohol or drugs, even if the driver is not buzzed and sufficiently in control of their body and vehicles.
How does this apply to marijuana use?
Alcohol consumption is easy to measure using a breathalyzer or taking a blood sample. Marijuana has no strict .08 level type limit that automatically dictates intoxication. Moreover, marijuana stays in the body weeks after the intoxicating effect wears off. This leaves open a lot of grey areas for driving while impaired by marijuana.
Measuring intoxication levels
The level of intoxication will vary depending upon:
- The marijuana strain
- The strain’s strength
- How the driver consumed it (smoked, vaped, eaten, etc.)
- The driver’s tolerance to marijuana
- And other factors
Colorado employs the legal concept of implied consent for marijuana, which means any driver suspected is obligated to allow a blood test. Generally speaking, a presumption of intoxication involves a test showing five nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood.
Law enforcement gets around this issue by automatically assuming that anyone who shows signs of marijuana use is impaired or less able to physically or mentally operate the vehicle as safe as the driver would when completely sober.
What are the penalties?
In cases of DWAI, marijuana is a misdemeanor charge. The penalties may involve fines, fines and jail time if there are extenuating circumstances. Drivers may lose their license, but (unlike a DUI) it’s not a mandatory penalty. There are also related penalties such as increased penalties for subsequent infractions, higher insurance rates and a criminal record.
Everyone has a right to fight the charge
A misdemeanor is a lesser charge, but it is still often worth fighting the charges. The driver may be innocent or distracted. Perhaps, the officers made mistakes in administering the test, or they did not have probable cause to pull you over. Disputing the charges is also a smart way to ensure that the penalties best fit the mistake in judgment when there is one.