Marijuana users and activists rejoiced when Initiative 502 to legalize recreational marijuana passed in Washington. The excitement rang through the halls of lawmakers' offices because of the influx of fresh new tax dollars. Conversely, a consequence of the new law has been having to sort through the fresh influx of new procedures and policies around the law. The biggest elephant in the room is the effect of the new law on Washington's “Driving Under the Influence” laws. The game has changed with changes in the criteria used to measure marijuana's active compound THC in the driver's bloodstream when tested to prove DUI.
Driving while high on marijuana has never been legal. And now the bar to compare a marijuana DUI defense favors the prosecution. It used to be that prosecutors would have to prove a defendant was “under the influence” of the drug to be convicted. Everyone's body chemistry is different and many different factors affect individual tolerance levels for THC. When lawmakers added amendment RCW 46.61.502, a DUI statute for drivers age 21 and over, a per se THC limit was enacted. This means that the driver's blood must reflect 5.00 nanograms per milliliter of blood within two hours of driving. When a per se limit came into play, prosecutors could simply show the blood THC concentration to be at or above the legal limit to effect a conviction. Now, prosecutors can win convictions regardless of the driver's actual impairment or lack thereof while driving.
Active THC vs. Metabolized or “Carboxy” THC
Only having active THC in your blood can convict you in a DUI. Metabolized THC means a person has consumed marijuana and the THC became absorbed into the blood within 10 to 30 minutes. Symptoms are present for two to three hours. Many factors can swing these numbers either way. Similarly, many factors may also affect the levels of impairment a person may experience. These varying principles have birthed several new defenses.
The law requires the THC measurement be obtained within two hours of driving. The prosecution can use tests taken after this two–hour window but not without some problems. The prosecution could run the risk of the defense positing that the results could have been lower earlier if the marijuana was ingested in its edible form rather than higher than the test results number.
Marijuana DUI Arrest
As Washington is joined by other states in enacting legal recreational marijuana laws, standards for driving laws will undoubtedly become more sophisticated. Currently, universities and private companies are racing to perfect a marijuana “breathalyzer” test.
If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI arrest, your best chances are in working with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Steve Karimi will answer every possible argument the prosecution brings forward to prove your guilt. Steve Karimi can prepare a multi-pronged defense in many cases resulting in dismissed charges or a reduced charge. Call our office today to schedule your consultation and learn your rights.