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Driving Under the Influence and Marijuana

by | Apr 26, 2017

Even though Marijuana is currently legal in Washington, DC, there can still be consequences for using marijuana and then operating a motor vehicle. Imagine this scenario, you’re driving in DC, all of sudden, you see red and blue lights and you are getting pulled over.  The police officer approaches your car, asks you to roll your window down and claims that he detects an odor of marijuana.  In response to the officer’s question about the marijuana smell, you tell him that you have marijuana but question why it matters.  Now, the officer calls another officer who is trained in the administration of standardized field sobriety tests.  This second officer arrives on the scene and asks you to take a series of tests to see if you are incapacitated in any way or if you cannot exercise clear judgement. In this scenario, let us also imagine that the last time you smoked marijuana was a few days prior.  Even though you hadn’t lit up that day, the THC may still be stored in your fat cells.

In DC there is no threshold test, any amount of THC in your system is cause for a DUI charge. Under DC Code § 50-2206.11 there is no specific language that states how much THC must be in your system and there is no case law on this subject either. If the officer continues to inquire, and you continue to answer his questions, you may face a charge for Driving Under the Influence in Washington, D.C.  Remember, when in doubt never speak to the police.  You have the legal right to remain silent.  Do not give the officer any information that will make his job easier in arresting you.  Silence can be your best and only friend at moments like these.

Continuing on with our scenario, an officer may ask you to step out of the vehicle for the purpose of submitting to a Standardized field sobriety test.  For one of the these tests, the officer will likely perform the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. In this test, the officer will likely ask you to follow a pen or flashlight with your eyes.  Following the HGN test the officer may move on to the walk and turn test.  During the walk and turn test the officer looks to see if you can follow instructions while taking nine steps forward, turn and take nine steps back. Finally, the officer will likely ask you to stand on one-leg and to count out loud till he tells you to stop.

Often, it will seem that no matter how these three tests go, the officer will presume there is some kind of intoxication and place you under arrest for DUI. It may even seem like a fishing expedition, as the officer does not appear to have any conclusive belief of what substance caused the alleged intoxication or impairment.  The fact is, there is a high likely hood that after answering the officer’s questions and submitting to these field tests you will be arrested.

All DUI cases, even for marijuana, are prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.  Most people who are facing a DUI charge for the first time will not be in jeopardy of getting any jail time. However, every situation is different and many factors can change whether an individual may be facing jail time.  Never handle a Driving Under the Influence charge alone.  Always consult with and hire an experienced DC DUI attorney.  If you or someone you know has been arrested for Driving Under the Influence, contact attorney Christopher J. Mutimer at 202-765-3175.  We will make sure you or your loved ones get the attention they need and deserve.