Marijuana might be legal in Washington, now, but driving under the influence is still a no-no. Unfortunately, driving under the influence (DUI) is not just limited to alcohol; taking a trip while high is just as illegal as getting behind the wheel while drunk.
While it's always a good idea to keep the roads safe – fewer accidents and fatalities can't be a bad thing – there are good ways to do it, and there are bad ways to do it.
Washington's way of handling drivers with marijuana in their system is a bad way of keeping the roads safe. Here's why.
Before legalizing marijuana use in the state, Washington did not have a set standard to prove that a driver was “under the influence” of marijuana. This made drugged driving cases much different than drunk driving cases. In drunk driving cases, a cop would pull someone over, do a sobriety test, and then a breath test or blood test to show exactly how high was the driver's alcohol content. In a drugged driving case, a cop would pull someone over, do a sobriety test, and then a blood test, and all of this evidence would be used in a trial to show that the driver was, in fact, impaired.
Since legalizing marijuana, Washington changed this law, and set a standard for what it meant to be “under the influence” of marijuana: 5 nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana) per milliliter of blood. This is a "per se" law; it doesn't matter if your driving is actually impaired - only that you're above the legal limit.
There are 3 huge problems with this way of keeping Washington's roads safe from drugged drivers: First, like with alcohol, different people are affected differently by marijuana, with some people able to ingest huge doses of THC without feeling any effects, while others are stoned very easily. Second, 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood is incredibly low, and many of those who have more than that amount in their bloodstream are perfectly sober. Third, unlike alcohol, THC takes a long time to pass through your body, and remains in your bloodstream for far longer than its hallucinogenic effects. According to the National Drug Court Institute, it can often take around 10 days for someone to pass a urine test at a 50 nanograms per milliliter standard. It can take substantially more time for someone to pass a drug test at a 5 nanogram standard. This means that many people can be arrested and convicted for DUI even though they haven't smoked marijuana in several days.
With this law on the books in Washington, having a top-notch defense attorney becomes crucial. Preserving evidence and challenging the prosecution is important to defend your rights and interests when facing a DUI charge for drugged driving. Attorney Kevin Trombold has nearly 20 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer, and has successfully defended thousands of people charged with DUIs and other crimes. Call the law offices of Kevin Trombold for a free consultation: 206-971-0067.