As the legalization of marijuana continues to sweep the American nation, many people are now wondering how this coincides with driving and DUI laws. Just like you can be arrested for drunk driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, there are also marijuana legal limits to avoid DUI charges. Some states have actual specifications, while others have zero tolerance rule in place. Understanding these is crucial to using weed legally and avoiding a DUI arrest.
Understanding Driving Under the Influence
Firstly and most importantly, you should know what constitutes “driving under the influence.” Drivers are expected to only operate a vehicle when they are mentally sound and fully capable of performing all the tasks that involve driving at a competent and safe level. Naturally, if you are caught with certain drugs in your system, like LSD or cocaine, there will always be zero tolerance. There are others, like alcohol, that have a legal limit in place.
A drug does not have to be illegal to fall under DUI laws. If you take a prescription medication to a level that affects you physically and mentally, this can still constitute a DUI arrest. In fact, there are many medications that clearly state on the bottle not to operate machinery when it is in your system. Ignoring this warning and endangering others on the road can lead to an arrest.
Marijuana Legalizations and Per Se Laws
In states where marijuana usage is still 100% illegal, any amount of marijuana found in your urine or blood will result in a DUI. Currently, there are 18 States where it is medically allowed are a different story. Some say that you cannot operate a vehicle at all while using it medicinally, while others have limit specifications. Some states have “per se” laws as well, which essentially are state-decided limits that equate to impairment.
Many states are still considered a zero tolerance state. With this in mind, some consider certain particles in the body more indicative of driving impaired compared to others. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a specific particle found in cannabis (along with 113 other kinds). It is the main psychoactive particle of marijuana and is more involved with impairment. For some states, THC is the main indicator for impairment.
Another way of proving there is marijuana in someone’s system involve metabolites. These are particles found inside one’s metabolism that form or become abundant in order to break down (or metabolize) a substance absorbed into the body. Lactase enzymes, for example, break down lactose (milk sugar) for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. There are also metabolites present for cannabis, however, these tend to stay in the body much longer than THC. They are not always a good indication of actual impairment since they can last days in the system, while the high from the drug doesn’t often last longer than 12 hours.
The breakdown of the 18 states with zero tolerance and/or per se laws is a follows:
- 9 States have zero tolerance for THC or a metabolite
- 3 States have zero tolerance for THC specifically but not for metabolites
- 7 States have per se limits for THC
Colorado has a reasonable inference law for THC, meaning if a police officer makes a reasonable deduction that someone is high, than that is enough for a DUI arrest.
New Jersey is Still a ‘No Tolerance’ State
With recreational marijuana legalization potentially around the corner, so too, may come law reform on marijuana limits in the blood for those driving. As of now, New Jersey is still a “No Tolerance” state. If you are caught with any amount of it in your system, you can be charged with a DUI. This, of course, is bound to change over time as the American public changes its views of marijuana usage in day-to-day life.
Contact an Experienced Cherry Hill Drug Defense Attorney About Your Marijuana Drug Crime Charges in New Jersey
Have you been charged with a drug related offense in New Jersey? A drug crime conviction can carry with it heavy fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension! That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer about your case. The Law Offices of Michele Finizio represent clients charged with use, possession, production, distribution, and related drug offenses in Pemberton, Camden, Gloucester Township, Medford, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 242-7300 or fill out our confidential online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office located at 9 E. Main St, Moorestown, NJ 08057, in addition to an office in Cherry Hill.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.