Colorado is one of several states to recently make marijuana legal for recreational use. While this is an exciting development for many that voted in favor of the legislation, it does not change the laws concerning driving under the influence. It is important for drivers in Colorado and other states passing recreational use laws that driving under the influence – even of marijuana – is still a big no-no, especially if they want to avoid costly tickets and possibly worse penalties.
How the Law Views Marijuana Use and Driving
There is no state in the U.S. where a driver can reasonably expect to drink alcohol and drive legally. The harsh penalties for drinking and driving are well known. However, many people do not realize that there are laws in place that prohibit the use of any drug or substance that impairs your ability to drive, whether they are prescription painkillers prescribed by your doctor, a martini or a joint.
Some people are going to find this fact out the hard way, unfortunately. But one can hope that the billboards and public service announcements going up in recreational-use states will be enough to curtail the problem somewhat.
What Happens When You are Caught?
If a police officer tickets you for driving while impaired, it is important to understand that the legality of the drug is not considered a valid defense. You will need to defend yourself with a more sound legal argument, preferably with the help of a criminal defense attorney. While users may consider marijuana intoxication more benign than alcohol intoxication, there is no guarantee that the court will view it that way.
The good news is that the state must prove its case against you, which can be challenging. There are no current standards for measuring marijuana intoxication, as opposed to alcohol intoxication, where BAC levels are used. It is possible that the state could use urine or blood tests to prove the presence of the drug in your system. But marijuana stays in your system so long that it is difficult to prove this is indicative of use on a specific day. The state will need to use other evidence to demonstrate your guilt, such as the testimony of the officer.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you create a strong case against the state and the officer testimony. This is the surest way to avoid the consequences of a failed case – fines, penalties and criminal charges on your record.