Can You Get Arrested for a DUI for Driving While High?
Driving drunk can have serious consequences, including getting charged with a DUI and the penalties associated with it. But did you know that you can get a DUI for driving under the influence of cannabis?
Each state has their own guidelines for cannabis DUIs, so it can be hard to know what rules you’re held to. In some states, you can even be charged with a DUI if you have any cannabis in your system at the time you were pulled over, whether you were high at the time or not.
We’ll walk you through the different types of marijuana DUIs and the rules for each state so you can protect yourself from a wrongful conviction.
Types of Cannabis DUIs
There are three main types of cannabis DUIs: Impairment, Per Se, and Zero-Tolerance.
All states have laws saying that it’s illegal to drive while under the influence, and that includes being high. However, these laws are enforced a little differently depending on the state.
In some states, the prosecution must simply prove that being high affected the driver in “any way.” In others, the court must find that there was a “substantial” or “significant effect” from the substance.
Determining whether someone is too high to drive can be subjective, but some common examples of evidence of impairment include:
- Poor field sobriety test
- Unusual behavior
- Slurred speech
- Bad driving
In some states, you can only be charged with an impairment DUI. That means that law enforcement have to prove that you were high while you were driving. You can’t just be charged with a DUI because cannabis came back on a urine drug test.
As of April 2023, states with impairment-only DUIs include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa also have impairment-only cannabis DUIs as well.
Per Se Marijuana DUIs
“Per se” DUI laws allow you to be arrested for driving under the influence even if there isn’t any evidence that you were impaired. For alcohol-related DUIs, this generally means that you can be prosecuted for having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit (0.08%) even if you weren’t driving erratically or causing an accident. For drug and cannabis cases, this distinction becomes less clear.
Some states can charge you with a DUI if your drug test results show any amount of THC that is over the legal limit. It doesn’t matter whether you were actually high at the time you were operating the vehicle; just the fact that you had cannabis in your system means you can be charged.
States with per se cannabis laws include:
In Colorado, you can be arrested for a DUI if your blood contains 5ng/ml of THC or higher.
Some states have zero-tolerance laws concerning cannabis. In these areas, it’s technically illegal to drive with any cannabis in your system. Since cannabis can stay in your body for 2-90 days+, this can present a problem for frequent users.
If cops arrest you for suspicion of driving while high and any amount of THC shows up on your drug test, you can be charged with a DUI, no matter how much marijuana you have in your system.
States with zero-tolerance cannabis DUI laws include:
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
How Do Police Determine Whether You’re Driving High?
If you’re pulled over for suspected drunk driving, an officer will usually give you a breathalyzer test. But what happens if they think you’re high?
There’s no good way to measure current levels of THC in your body or for police to know whether a person is too high to drive. It’s common for police to use blood tests to verify the amount of THC in your system. Blood tests only detect cannabis use for about 1-2 days after use.
Some other jurisdictions may have you take a urine test. Urine tests are much more sensitive to THC levels, and you may test positive for days or weeks after using cannabis. If you live in a no-tolerance state, this could mean that you’re more likely to come under fire for a DUI.
Consequences of Cannabis DUIs
The legal ramifications of a cannabis DUI vary widely by state. In some cases, they can be severe. Some possible penalties for a cannabis-related DUI include:
- Jail time
- Community service
- Victim impact program participation
- House arrest
- License suspension
- Vehicle impoundment
- Drug and alcohol abuse programs.
As an example, the consequences of a first offense could include:
- License suspension for 90 days to a year
- Fine ranging from $500-$2000
- Up to a year in jail (most first-time offenders don’t do substantial jail time)
- Substance abuse treatment
Some factors could increase your penalties, including:
- Prior offenses
- Driving with especially high levels of THC
- Driving with a minor in the car
- DUI while driving with a suspended license
- Causing an accident
- Causing property damage
- Causing bodily injury
- Causing death
How Long Before It’s Safe to Drive?
The effects of using marijuana can vary widely based on its strain, THC content, how you use it, and much more. There’s no infallible guide to know when you’ll be okay to drive after partaking in cannabis.
Need help determining which test is right for you? We are happy to help!
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