In Virginia, possession of marijuana is still illegal, unless it is pursuant to a valid prescription, or it is a substance that contains less than 3% of THC as an active ingredient. There is no set legal measurement for how much THC in one’s system will presumptively establish legal intoxication for a DUI charge, unlike some other more serious drugs. However, marijuana is certainly recognized as a substance that can constitute an “intoxicant” for purposes of driving while intoxicated.
A marijuana DUI offense is charged under the same statute as alcohol-related DUIs. If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI offense, you should reach out to a dedicated drug DUI attorney right away. A Prince William County marijuana DUI lawyer could fight for you throughout the legal process.
The penalties of a marijuana DUI charge are the same as an alcohol-related DUI. A defendant is facing expensive fines, driver’s license suspension, alcohol probation, jail time, and other repercussions. The only penalty difference for a marijuana DUI is that there is never any mandatory minimum jail time based on the amount of THC found in one’s blood since the Virginia DUI statute does not include elevated levels of THC as it does for blood alcohol levels. An individual facing these penalties should seek the services of a marijuana DUI lawyer in Prince William County as soon as possible.
Evidence in marijuana DUI cases may be different than in alcohol-related DUI cases. In marijuana DUI cases, the preliminary breath tests and the police station breath tests will not be relevant or introduced because those tests only detect alcohol. Officers are still trained to conduct the same three core standard field sobriety tests approved by the federal National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) prior to marijuana DUI arrests. However, some officers also conduct specialized drug-based field sobriety tests that are not approved or regulated by the federal government. These tests are less defined, consistent, and reliable than the standard alcohol-based field sobriety tests.
The only way a direct measurement of a person’s marijuana influence can be shown in these cases is if the person underwent a proper blood test, and the results are positive for THC. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that causes intoxicating effects. Because Virginia law does not specify any amounts of blood THC needed to prove or disprove a DUI, an expert scientific witness may also be necessary to interpret what kind of influence that level of THC would have had on the driver on the date of offense. But even these witnesses cannot know or establish a driver’s preexisting marijuana tolerance level, how long ago the marijuana would have been consumed, and how strong the type of marijuana was that was previously consumed. This is why all marijuana DUI cases are inherently circumstantial in nature.
The prosecution needs to prove that the defendant was under the influence of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle to such an extent that his or her ability to safely operate that motor vehicle was impaired below the average level of driver ability and diligence. In order to prove this, the prosecution will likely rely strongly on the observed driving behavior that led to the traffic stop in the first place, as well as the observed behavior of the defendant once ordered out of the vehicle and forced to interact with law enforcement in physical and verbal ways. This is because the law and the science behind marijuana levels in one’s blood are not clearly established in terms of how much is too much to notably affect driving ability away from normal levels.
If you are facing marijuana DUI charges, call an accomplished defense attorney today. A seasoned Prince William County drug DUI lawyer could advocate for you and possibly help you reach a favorable outcome to your case.