Marijuana, Not Alcohol – Can I Still Get a DWI?
The answer is yes. Minnesota has a strict zero-tolerance policy for those caught operating a vehicle while having a controlled substance that is not medically prescribed in their system. For illicit substances, which includes marijuana, even a medically sound reason is not accepted – unless the FDA has granted a special exemption.
In Minnesota, the penalties for driving with an illicit substance in your system are the same as with those who drive while intoxicated by alcohol. Outside of any aggravating factors, your first offense within a 10-year period is a misdemeanor (punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine). Your second and third offenses within a 10-year period are considered gross-misdemeanors (punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $3,000 fine). If you get four offenses in 10 years, you could face up to 7 years imprisonment and a $14,000 fine, as it is considered a felony in the State of Minnesota.
How Can Police Tell I’ve Smoked Marijuana?
There is a popular misconception that people are able to drive competently while under the influence of marijuana. In reality, the impact on both coordination and a person’s attention span is similar to that of alcohol. When a police officer pulls you over, alcohol will be the initial suspect. If you test negative for being over the legal limit, yet still exhibit symptoms of intoxication, the officer has the discretion to refer you for medical testing at a secure facility.
You will be arrested on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and a blood or urine test will either confirm or deny the suspicions. Additionally, to note, if the officer finds drug paraphernalia in the vehicle or marijuana itself, the driver faces other penalties that affect his or her rights. Therefore, not only will the case deal with a DWI, it will also be about drug in a motor vehicle charge. Both charges will subject the driver to different penalties criminally as well as civilly.
What Can I Do if I am Arrested?
If you are arrested under suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana and charged, contact and hire an attorney right away. An attorney will be able to advise you on how to request additional testing to either prove or disprove the suspicions.
Securing a DWI attorney right away will help to ensure evidence is gathered quickly, deadlines and requirements are met, and that you can start to contest your case immediately. Because a DWI due to marijuana acts like a normal alcohol induced DWI, there will be a criminal and civil case moving forward. An attorney can help to navigate the process in each arena.
How Can I Avoid This?
Marijuana has an active blood half-life of just over 12 hours. Some field sobriety checkpoints now include cheek swabs and basic blood tests and can indicate current intoxication. However, if you are brought into a medical facility and a urine test is administered you can be flagged for up to two weeks after consuming marijuana.
The best way to avoid this is to not violate the law. Using marijuana in any form, unless you have a special dispensation from the FDA, is a violation of Federal and State law. Even with a special dispensation, driving with it in your system is still illegal. Unlike alcohol, to be charged with DWI for marijuana, it does not matter what your BAC actually is: if you have it in your system at all, you cannot legally operate a vehicle if your driving is impaired.