Over the past decade, society has taken a more relaxed attitude when it comes to marijuana. Colorado was one of the first two states, along with Washington, to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. However, despite the fact that adults can purchase, consume, and grow marijuana legally, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
At the Lux Law Firm, founding attorney Austin Lux represents clients facing all types of DUI cases, including marijuana DUIs in Colorado. As a seasoned trial advocate, Attorney Lux has extensive experience handling DUI cases and commands an impressive knowledge of the complex laws that govern these claims.
And as a former prosecutor, he understands how the government handles marijuana DUIs—and knows what it takes to beat even the toughest cases.
Colorado Marijuana DUI Laws
While it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, marijuana DUI cases are quite different from those that involve drinking and driving. For one, alcohol DUI cases impose a “per se” blood alcohol limit.
This means that if your blood-alcohol limit is over a certain amount, you are guilty of drunk driving. This is the case even if there was no evidence that alcohol actually impaired your ability to drive.
Marijuana DUI cases are different in that there is no “per se” limit. Instead, prosecutors must prove that you were under the influence of marijuana and that the drug impaired your ability to drive. In a way, this makes it harder to prove a marijuana DUI case because it isn’t enough to prove that marijuana was in your system.
That said, there is a presumption that marijuana impaired your ability to drive if you had more than five nanograms of THC in your system.
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana and is what gives users a “high” or “stoned” feeling. When you consume marijuana, your body immediately starts breaking down the drug in a series of chemical reactions. Initially, the byproduct of these reactions is the creation of THC.
Over time, the body continues to break THC down into inactive metabolites. Therefore, marijuana can remain in your system for up to several weeks after consumption. But the presence of inactive metabolites in your blood does not mean that you are high or that you cannot drive safely. Thus, just because you have marijuana “in your system” doesn’t mean that you were intoxicated.
How the Government Proves a Marijuana DUI Case
To prove you guilty of a Colorado DUI, the prosecution must establish that you had THC in your system and that your ability to drive was impaired. Unlike alcohol, marijuana does not show up on a breath test. Thus, police officers will typically administer a blood test if they think you were driving under the influence of marijuana.
However, the government does not need to present chemical test results to prove you were under the influence of marijuana. In some cases, prosecutors will proceed with a case even if there was no blood test performed.
For example, if you refuse to provide a blood sample prosecutors can still go forward with the case. In these situations, the prosecution may rely on other evidence of intoxication, such as:
- Bloodshot or watery eyes;
- The smell of marijuana in the car;
- The presence of marijuana in the car;
- The presence of a pipe or other drug paraphernalia; and
- Other indications that you were high.
Unsafe to Drive
Regardless of whether the prosecution has chemical test results, it still needs to show that you were in a condition that made it unsafe for you to drive. Prosecutors typically try to establish this element through a police officer’s observations. For example, the government may try to prove you were impaired by marijuana by showing:
- You caused an accident;
- You drove too fast or too slowly;
- You couldn’t stay in your lane;
- You drove erratically; or
- You violated any other traffic law.
Given the complexity of Colorado DUI laws, there are many defenses to these cases. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the laws as they apply to your case and develop a compelling defense.
Defenses to Marijuana DUI Cases
There are potential defenses to every crime, and marijuana DUIs are no exception. Defenses to a marijuana DUI charge typically involve challenging either the elements of the offense or the manner in which the officers obtained the evidence the prosecution intends to use against you.
Challenging the Elements of a Marijuana DUI
On the most basic level, prosecutors must prove two things to successfully bring a marijuana DUI case against you. First, that you were under the influence of marijuana, and second, that the marijuana impaired your driving.
The prosecution must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If your defense attorney can cast enough doubt on either of these elements, you may beat the case.
Common ways to attack the elements of a marijuana DUI case include establishing the following:
- You were not under the influence of marijuana;
- Your driving was not dangerous; or
- A traffic violation was not the result of marijuana intoxication.
If you can prevent the prosecution from proving the elements of the offense, the judge or jury will have no choice but to find you not guilty.
Challenging the Evidence in a Marijuana DUI Case
The second way to beat a DUI case is by challenging the evidence. In most marijuana DUI cases, this involves filing a motion to suppress. A motion to suppress is a pre-trial filing in which your attorney argues the evidence the prosecution wants to use against you is not legally admissible.
Typically, motions to suppress surround the manner in which the police officers obtained evidence. In this context, “evidence” may be physical evidence, such as marijuana found inside the car or an officer’s observations of intoxication. You can also seek to suppress the results of a blood test.
For example, the following can all be the basis of a motion to suppress.
- Police officers pulled you over for no legitimate reason;
- Police officers didn’t have probable cause to administer chemical testing; or
- Police officers administered chemical testing without providing you with the required warnings.
You may also be able to argue that the lab made a mistake when conducting the chemical testing. The specific defense that applies best to your case depends on the nature of the traffic stop and how the lab handled the test. An experienced Colorado DUI defense attorney can help determine the best possible defense in your case.
Were You Arrested for a Marijuana DUI Offense?
If you face Colorado marijuana DUI charges, it is important that you reach out to a dedicated criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction for a DUI can seriously impact your life and can remain on your record forever. Attorney Austin Lux aggressively defends clients facing marijuana DUI cases.
He possesses the skill, knowledge, and experience necessary to handle even the most complex case. When you bring the Lux Law Firm onto your defense team, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.