Due to Colorado’s progressive laws allowing recreational marijuana use, law enforcement officers are getting more vigilant with impaired drivers. This is reflected in the state’s legal code, which defines a DUI not as a charge limited to alcohol consumption, but rather due to consumption of alcohol or one or more drugs or a combination of both alcohol and drugs. This means that drivers who are charged with a marijuana-related DUI will receive the same penalties as a driver who was drinking alcohol. With the stakes and penalties this high, a marijuana DUI conviction can be devastating. If you are facing a marijuana DUI charge, contact Colorado DUI defense attorney Jay Tiftickjian.
Colorado Marijuana DUI Laws
Colorado is an “Express Consent” state, meaning that all drivers who choose to operate a motor vehicle within the state are thereby agreeing to subject themselves to a blood or breath test, should it be requested by a law enforcement officer when that office has probable cause to believe a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired to the slightest degree due to the consumption of alcohol, one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs. Any driver who refuses to subject themselves to a blood or breath test could face a license revocation as well as having their refusal used as evidence against them in court.
In a DUI case where the officer suspects a driver may be impaired in full or in part due to drugs, the officer can require the driver to submit to a blood test. The driver does not have the choice of tests when drug impairment is suspected, but instead it is the officer who has the choice of which test to offer. If the test shows the driver has at least 5 nanograms of delta-9 THC per milliliter of whole blood, such fact gives rise to a permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of drugs. This determining metric is not as cut and dry as the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for alcohol-related DUIs as there hasn’t been as much research devoted to the direct link between THC content and impairment. Beyond that, THC remains in the body for a much greater time period than alcohol, meaning a person who was high days ago could still register as impaired or have active levels of THC in their system.
Penalties of a Marijuana DUI in Colorado
Colorado has harsh penalties for DUIs, even if the driver doesn’t have any prior offenses. Drivers convicted of a first offense DUI can be sentenced to a minimum of five days in jail, $600 in fines, and 48 hours of community service, and up to a maximum of one year in jail, $1,000 in fines, 96 hours of community service, and two years of probation. In addition, a person convicted of DUI in Colorado can expect to be required to attend Level II Substance Abuse Classes which can take up to a year to complete, a MADD VIP Class, submit to monitored sobriety while on probation, be subject to a revocation of their driving privileges and be required to install ignition interlock in every vehicle they drive or own for up to two years. Yes, you will be required to install ignition interlock in your car even if you are convicted of a DUI that only involves marijuana or drugs! A DUI defense attorney can help you get the lowest penalties possible based on the specific and individual facts of your case.
Second offense DUIs are taken very seriously in Colorado, with penalties increasing dramatically from first offenses. While the minimum fine remains at $600, probation increases to a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years. Jail time becomes mandatory with a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence being required for all second offenses. Beyond probation, offenders may face up to a year’s suspended jail sentence and $1500 in fines on top of Level II Education and Therapy Classes, 48-120 hours of community service, loss of license for up to one year and mandatory ignition interlock for no less than two years.
Third offense DUIs are extremely severe in Colorado. Anyone facing a third DUI in a lifetime is facing a lengthy jail sentence in the county jail. Minimum jail sentences start at 60 days with the maximum being one year. Most 3rd time offenders get 9-12 months in jail, not the minimum the sentence. In-Home Detention or Electronic home monitoring is not an option to serve the minimum jail sentence for driver convicted of a third offense. If the offender is found to be a Habitual Traffic Offender they could be facing a five year revocation of their driving privileges in addition to the extensive penalties imposed by the court. As you can see, the severity of the offense increases based on prior history. It does not matter if your priors involved alcohol and this was a first offense that involved drugs, or vice versa. It is the act of driving impaired that the law focuses on and the impairing substance is not important in determining what penalties a driver faces if convicted. All repeat offenders should strongly consider hiring the best DUI attorney they can find to ensure that their interests are represented in court and that they obtain the best possible outcome given the facts of their case and their prior history.
Underage Marijuana DUI Penalties
As an underage driver, the penalties for a DUI are often immediate and restrictive. If an underage driver is charged with a DUI will face the same penalties as an adult DUI, with the added penalty of not being able to obtain their driving privileges back early.
It is extremely rare for an underage driver to be charged with UDD (Underage Drunk Driving) when the impairing substance is suspected to be marijuana or another drug. First offense UDD charges are classified as a Class A Traffic Infraction. But with that comes the loss of license, up to 24 hours of community service, and the requirement to attend and complete Level I or Level II substance abuse education and therapy classes. In addition, a conviction for UDD can never be sealed or expunged from your record in Colorado. UDD offenses beyond the first offense can be classified as a class 2 misdemeanor, and penalties substantially increase as a result. This can be a harsh punishment for a young person’s mistake. This is why it is vital that they receive the defense they need and that parents consider their children’s long-term future when deciding on whether to hire counsel or not.
Fighting a Marijuana DUI Charge
If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI in Colorado, you will need an experienced DUI lawyer to defend you. Attorney Jay Tiftickjian defends those charged with DUI offenses in the Denver area and beyond with proven results. Contact Tiftickjian Law Firm today and see the Tiftickjian difference for yourself.