You Don’t Need to Be High to Be Charged with Marijuana DUI
Note that I didn’t say that driving while high or stoned is against the law, though it most certainly is. Just having pot in your bloodstream can get you charged with DUI in Colorado, even if you don’t feel the slightest bit impaired; even if you haven’t smoked or ingested pot for days.
Colorado law specifies that drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). The problem is that THC remains in the bloodstream long after the buzz has gone away.
If you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence and have more than the legal amount of THC in your system, even if you are not impaired, you could be charged with DUI.
What’s worse is that if THC is identified in your blood in quantities of 5ng/ml or higher, "such fact gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence." (C.R.S. 42-4-1301(6)(a)(IV)). The inference that you were impaired puts you at an immediate disadvantage in defending yourself against DUI charges.
Law enforcement officers are trained to detect impairment caused by pot and other drugs, and you certainly can help them do so if you or your vehicle smells of marijuana or you have visible paraphernalia or open containers of marijuana in your vehicle (both of which are illegal to have in the passenger compartment).
As with blood and breath tests given when a driver is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, a driver suspected of being impaired by marijuana will be asked to submit to a similar test to detect the presence and amount of THC in the driver’s bloodstream. Your refusal to submit to such a test will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license and can be admitted into evidence and used against you at trial.
However, if you are pulled over for suspicion for driving under the influence of marijuana and are subsequently charged with DUI, you have rights. You have defenses. You have the ability to challenge the legality of your traffic stop, the constitutionality of your arrest, the validity of the test results, and admissibility of other evidence that form the cornerstone of the prosecution’s case against you.
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