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Marijuana DUI

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Colorado Springs Marijuana DUI

The last ten years in the United States have seen a seismic shift in attitudes and legislation concerning marijuana; nowhere is this more apparent than in Colorado. In the state of Colorado in 2000, voters passed Amendment 20 to the state constitution, which legalized the use of medical marijuana; in 2012, adult recreational marijuana use was legalized; in 2014, the recreational sale of marijuana was approved. With this flurry of marijuana legalization legislation came several misconceptions by the public about how this applies to driving under the influence of marijuana. Many people – especially out-of-staters — are not aware that you can get a DUI or DWAI for marijuana in Colorado.

Here's What You Need to Know About DUI/DWAI for Marijuana in Colorado

It is a crime to drive in Colorado while you are under the influence or your ability is impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. This applies to marijuana, despite the fact that it is legal in Colorado for adults to possess it and use it recreationally. Think of it exactly the same way you would think of alcohol. It’s legal to drink it, but illegal to drive drunk. The same goes for marijuana. It’s legal to smoke it, but illegal to drive high.

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WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A DUI FOR MARIJUANA IN COLORADO?

The penalties for a first, second and third (or beyond) conviction are harsh, and escalate. Some possible penalties are:

First conviction:

  • County jail imprisonment between 5 days-1 year
  • Fine between $600-$1000
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 9 months
  • Community service of 48-96 hours
  • 12 points on your license

Second conviction:

  • County jail imprisonment between 10 days-1 year
  • Fine between $600-$1500
  • Community service up to 120 hours
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 1 year
  • 2 years of an ignition interlock device after your license is reinstated
  • 12 points on your license

Third conviction:

  • County jail imprisonment between 60 days-1 year
  • Fine between $600-$1500
  • Community service up to 120 hours
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 2 years
  • 2 years of an ignition interlock device after your license is reinstated
  • Mandatory participation in a court-ordered alcohol and drug driving safety education or treatment program
  • Probation up to 2 years
  • 12 points on your license

Fourth (or more) conviction:

  • You may be charged with a felony
  • You can face 2-6 years in prison
  • Probation up to 6 years
  • Fine of $500,000

A first conviction for DWAI for marijuana has penalties somewhat less harsh than a first conviction for DUI for marijuana. Penalties for DWAI for marijuana are the same as DUI for alcohol for second, third, and later convictions.

You should also be aware that points on your driver’s license may increase your auto insurance premium, and possibly subject you to additional surcharges and substantial court costs.

WHY ARE THERE PENALTIES FOR DRIVING WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA?

The goal of Colorado’s rules of the road is to eliminate risky behaviors while on the road. Not only is it illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana – it is also unsafe to you, your passengers, and others on the road.

One of the unfortunate effects of marijuana legalization is that it has led some people to believe that driving while under the influence of marijuana is not as dangerous as previously thought. This is a serious misconception, which can not only cause an accident or injury but can also have you facing some serious penalties, including fines, loss of driving privileges, severely limited driving privileges, and significant jail time.

According to numerous independent studies, marijuana impairs critical abilities to drive safely, such as: decreased attention, slowed reaction time, poor decision-making, and impaired cognitive performance.

A report prepared in September 2018 by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Strategic Intelligence Unit (RMHIDTA) found that the percentage of all Colorado traffic deaths that were marijuana related increased from 11.43 percent in 2013 to 21.3 percent in 2017. The numbers have continued to rise; clearly, this has become an increasingly problematic public safety issue.

WHAT IS THE LEGAL LIMIT FOR MARIJUANA FOR DRIVING?

If you have five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in your system, you can be prosecuted for DUI for marijuana. However, since there is no reliable roadside test for determining THC levels or a driver’s level of impairment, the main factor in whether you are stopped and charged by a police officer is based on what the officer observes. This is called “observed impairment.” Therefore, ANY level of active THC in your blood can put you at risk of getting stopped for DUI or DWAI. The only way to be absolutely certain that you are ok to drive and not subject to being charged for a DUI or DWAI for marijuana is to make sure there is no THC in your system.

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HOW CAN A POLICE OFFICER TELL IF I AM DRIVING WHILE IMPAIRED?

Like most police departments, alcohol or drug impairment detection is part of a Colorado law enforcement officer’s training. Some are trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs). If an officer suspects that you are driving while under the influence of marijuana, he can request that you submit to chemical testing. The penalties for refusal to submit to a blood or urine sample are severe and include the immediate loss of your driver’s license.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I REFUSE ANY KIND OF TOXICOLOGY/CHEMICAL TEST (BLOOD, URINE, SALIVA)?

If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer due to observed impairment or any violation of traffic law, and a toxicology test is requested by the officer, there are severe penalties if you refuse to comply with the test. This is Colorado’s “express consent” law (also called “implied consent”), which means that just by driving a motor vehicle, you are giving consent to be tested if an officer pulls you over for suspected DUI or DWAI. You are required to submit to a field sobriety test and possibly a chemical test if requested. Do not refuse to take the test in an attempt to avoid detection of impairment or THC in your system. The penalties for refusal to take the test may be worse than if you had taken the test and it actually showed THC in your system. If you refuse to take the test, you will most likely lose your license immediately for one year, be required to have an interlock device on your vehicle for 2 years, and attend some kind of substance abuse education.

WHAT IF I HAVE A MEDICAL MARIJUANA CARD?

Having a medical marijuana card does not allow you to drive while your ability is impaired by marijuana. Again, the standard of “observed impairment” by a police officer applies.

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE DANGERS OF DRIVING WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA?

According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), 55 percent of marijuana users said they believed it was safe to drive under the influence of marijuana. This was a startling and troubling finding. As a result, CDOT launched a state-wide, multiyear initiative called the Cannabis Conversation to try to better understand public perception of the dangers of driving while marijuana-impaired and to better understand the behaviors and habits related to marijuana and driving. With this information in hand, CDOT can focus its educational messages on changing attitudes and driving behaviors with marijuana.

The problem is clear: marijuana-related traffic accidents and deaths are on the rise in Colorado.

The solution is even clearer: don’t get on the road if you have marijuana in your system. It’s the only fool-proof way to avoid a DUI or DWAI for marijuana.

Colorado criminal procedure

  • Arrest or
    Summons
    01

    Arrest or
    Summons

    The process begins with either an arrest or a summons. The accused is either arrested or served with paperwork summoning them to appear in court. During an arrest, Miranda rights may or may not be read to you. Officers are only required to recite your rights if they intend to question you about potentially incriminating things.

  • Bond Hearing
    02

    Bond Hearing

    In most cases, you're entitled to have a reasonable bond set after you've been arrested. In situations involving domestic violence, the police will request input from the victim before setting a bond. Bonds are set to ensure that a person appears in court at their court dates. If they don’t show up, they forfeit the money that was paid for the bond.

  • Advisement of
    Charges
    03

    Advisement of
    Charges

    Whether you are arrested or given a summons to appear, the court must make sure you understand what crimes you are being accused of committing. This is called advisement of charges. The District Attorney will detail the specific charges against you, and the Judge has to make sure you understand what possible penalties are associated with that charge in the state.

  • Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony
    Charges)
    04

    Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony
    Charges)

    A preliminary hearing is a way for your defense attorney to challenge the District Attorney’s right to bring charges against you by making them prove that there is reason to believe you committed a crime. The Judge is not deciding your guilt or innocence, but rather whether or not there is probable cause to charge you with the crime in question.

  • Pretrial Conference /
    Disposition
    Hearing
    05

    Pretrial Conference /
    Disposition
    Hearing

    This court date comes after your attorney has reviewed all of the reports and evidence in your case. Here’s where your attorney will engage in plea negotiations with the DA. If they can reach an agreement on the case, you may be able to take a plea bargain. If they cannot reach a resolution, your case will be set for an arraignment or trial date.

  • Arraignment
    06

    Arraignment

    An arraignment is the final date for you to decide how you choose to plea. Guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, then the case is set for a sentencing date. If you plead not guilty, you and your attorney will then set the case for trial.

  • Motions Hearing
    07

    Motions Hearing

    A motion hearing is when an attorney makes a request that requires a decision from the judge. For example, motions to suppress evidence or statements. These motions can limit the information that goes before a jury if it benefits your case, and there are legal grounds for doing so.

  • Pretrial Readiness
    Conference
    08

    Pretrial Readiness
    Conference

    A pretrial readiness conference is held at some point before trial. It usually is held about a week to a month before the date trial is set to begin. This court date ensures everyone is ready to go to trial on the set date. It is also a time for lawyers to bring up any issues they may have to be addressed before the day of trial.

  • Jury Trial
    09

    Jury Trial

    After a jury is selected for trial, the District Attorney’s responsibility is to present the case to the jury. The DA must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime. Otherwise, the jury must find you innocent. Your attorney will be able to cross-examine all of the witnesses, present evidence, and ultimately help you navigate this process.

  • Sentencing
    Date
    10

    Sentencing
    Date

    At sentencing, the Judge must decide the appropriate legal penalty for the crime you plead guilty. The Judge’s decision is based on the listed penalties for the specific charge, recommendations from the presentence investigation, your criminal history, as well as statements made at the sentencing by the District Attorney, your attorney, you, and any named victims of the crime.

What is the sentence for misdemeanors in Colorado?

  • Class 1

  • 6 to 18 months in county jail, and/or
  • $500 to $5,000 in fines
  • For extraordinary risk class 1 misdemeanors, the maximum jail sentence is 24 months.
  • For 3rd-degree assault (CRS 18-3-204), the maximum sentence can be 48 months if the victim was on duty as a:
    • Peace officer,
    • Emergency medical provider,
    • Firefighter, or
    • Mental health professional at the Department of Human Services.
  • Class 2

  • 3 to 12 months in county jail, and/or
  • $250 to $1,000 in fines
  • Class 3

  • Up to 6 months of county jail, and/or
  • $50 to $750 in fines2

What are Colorado felony penalties?

  • Class 1

  • Life imprisonment
  • No Colorado crime carries the death penalty.
  • Class 2

  • 8 – 24 years in Colorado State Prison, and/or
  • $5,000 – $1,000,000
  • 5 years of mandatory parole if the offense is a crime of violence. Otherwise, 3 years of mandatory parole.
  • Class 3

  • 4 – 12 years in prison, and/or
  • $3,000 – $750,000
  • 3 years of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 3 felonies, the maximum sentence is 16 years in prison.
  • Class 4

  • 2 – 6 years in prison, and/or
  • $2,000 – $500,000
  • 3 years of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 4 felonies, the maximum sentence is 8 years in prison.
  • Class 5

  • 1 – 3 years in prison, and/or
  • $1,000 – $100,000
  • 2 years of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 5 felonies, the maximum sentence is 4 years in prison.
  • Class 6

  • 1 – 18 months years in prison, and/or
  • $1,000 – $100,000
  • 1 year of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 6 felonies, the maximum sentence is 2 years in prison.

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At Right Law Group, we understand the stress you are under. Our Criminal Defense Law Firm is here to guide you down the right path to your legal challenge. Whether you are facing your first DUI, a drug charge, need a restraining order, or are facing another type of criminal charge, our firm is committed to your well-being and protecting your rights the right way.

Can you get a DUI for being stoned?

Yes. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is incredibly dangerous and can result in DUI charges. This includes prescription medications if they disrupt your awareness, as well as marijuana – even though it is legal to purchase and use in Colorado.

What is the penalty for a marijuana DUI in Colorado?

In Colorado, the penalties for a marijuana DUI will likely include jail time, fines, community service, driver’s license suspension, and points on your license.

Can I legally drive in Colorado after smoking marijuana?

Unlike with alcohol, for marijuana there is no specific limit at which point a person is considered “over the limit”. If someone has used marijuana and it has impaired their ability to operate a vehicle, they could be charged with a marijuana DUI.

Experienced Marijuana DUI Attorney

Colorado Springs Marijuana DUI Attorney Near You

When you’re charged with a marijuana DUI in Colorado, you need a lawyer who is familiar with the laws and knows how the court system works. DUI attorneys work with you to help you establish a strong defense. Even if you believe that a conviction is inevitable, an attorney can help you fight for a lesser charge, a reduced sentence, or another more favorable outcome. Contact us right away for a free case consultation.