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Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Is it illegal under Ohio law to drive under the influence of marijuana?

Not surprisingly, it is illegal under Ohio law to drive under the influence of marijuana or any “drug of abuse.” About 1 out of every 8-weekend nighttime drivers nationwide is driving under the influence of drugs, according to the National Drug Control Policy. Recently, Ohio police officers have been going through drug evaluation and classification training to become certified as “drug-recognition experts,” allowing them to accurately determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana or another drug. This training is a 12-step protocol that teaches an officer to evaluate a driver suspected of being under the influence of marijuana or other drugs and includes steps such as an eye exam, breath alcohol tests, field sobriety tests, interviews, and blood, urine, or saliva tests. Under Ohio law, having at least 2 nanograms of marijuana in your blood or at least 10 nanograms of marijuana per milliliter of your urine will cause you to be automatically presumed “impaired” and arrested for driving under the influence. However, as with alcohol, you can still be arrested for driving under the influence even if there was no test performed or if your test results are below these levels, if the prosecution can use other facts from your arrest, such as the field sobriety tests administered by the police officer, to prove that you were driving impaired.

Does it break the same law as the law for drinking and driving?

Yes, driving under the influence of marijuana violates Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19, the same statute that also prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol. O.R.C. section 4511.19 states, “No person shall operate any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley within this state, if, at the time of the operation,” the person is under the influence of “a drug of abuse.” O.R.C. 4511.19(A)(j)(vii) establishes the legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana as “a concentration of marihuana in the person’s urine of at least ten nanograms of marihuana per milliliter of the person’s urine,” “a concentration of marihuana in the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma of at least two nanograms of marihuana per milliliter of the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma,” or “a concentration of marihuana metabolite in the person’s urine of at least thirty-five nanograms of marihuana metabolite per milliliter of the person’s urine or has a concentration of marihuana metabolite in the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma of at least fifty nanograms of marihuana metabolite per milliliter of the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma.”

Are the charges treated the same for the two offenses?

Yes, the charges and the penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are the same as for driving under the influence of alcohol.  Ohio law treats both offenses the same under O.R.C. section 4511.19. For a “per se” DUI/OVI – Marijuana offense, the prosecution only has to prove that within 3 hours of your operation of a motor vehicle, a blood or urine test showed that you had a concentration of marijuana metabolite (the substance produced when marijuana is broken down in your body) 1over Ohio’s established legal limits. Thus, this is the easiest way to secure a conviction and will be the prosecutor’s likely strategy of choice, if possible. If the prosecution is unable to prove a “per se” violation, the prosecutors will instead have to resort to proving you were “appreciably impaired.”

Under 4511.19, if this is your first DUI/OVI conviction, you will be facing a first-degree misdemeanor with at least 3 days in jail (or up to 6 months) and a fine between $375 and $1,075, as well as a driver’s license suspension between 1 to 3 years. You may also be able to convince the judge to grant you limited driving privileges or unlimited driving privileges with a shorter license suspension by adding an ignition interlock device to your vehicle.

If this is your second DUI/OVI conviction within a six-year period, you could face a first-degree misdemeanor with at least 10 days in jail and a fine between $525 and $1,625, as well as a driver’s license suspension for 1 to 7 years. For your third DUI/OVI conviction within six years, you will be facing an unclassified misdemeanor with at least 30 days in jail (or up to 1 year), a fine between $850 and $2,750, or both, and a driver’s license suspension of at least 1 year and up to 12 years. For your fourth or fifth DUI/OVI, you face a fourth-degree felony with a minimum of at least 60 days in jail (or up to 1 to 5 years in prison) and a fine between $1,350 and $10,500, a driver’s license suspension for between 3 years to life, as well as being required to participate in a drug addiction program, and possibly the forfeiture of your vehicle. Lastly, if this is your sixth or more DUI/OVI offense, you face a third-degree felony with a mandatory sentence of at least 120 days in jail (or up to 1 to 5 years in prison), a fine between $1,350 and $10,500, mandatory participation in a drug addiction program, and the criminal forfeiture of your vehicle.

Is it dangerous to drive while high?

It is very dangerous to drive high, as marijuana is a drug and negatively impairs your driving, even though the effects may be somewhat different than the effect of alcohol on a driver. For instance, in one study published in Popular Science, scientists compared the effects of marijuana impairment on drivers versus alcohol impairment and found, “None of the doped-up or drinking drivers were models of safety on the road,” and that while marijuana-impaired drivers tended to drive slower than drunk drivers, they seemed to feel that they could compensate for marijuana’s effects on their driving, “but they can’t.”

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, you need to contact an experienced Ohio marijuana DUI criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare your defense and attempt to have the charges reduced or dismissed or to reduce the penalties you will face as much as possible. A DUI/OVI charge is a very serious offense that can negatively impact your employment, criminal record, education, and life. Possible defenses that an experienced marijuana DUI defense attorney can use to help your case include moving to have your case dismissed if the arresting officer did not actually have reasonable cause to pull you over initially for the traffic stop or on suspicion for criminal activity. Your attorney can also challenge whether the officer had been properly trained in administering field sobriety tests, whether he actually administered the tests correctly to you, or whether any of the tests you were subjected to did not meet with national standards for such field sobriety tests. Other potential defenses include making sure that urine, saliva, or blood tests were administered properly and that the testing equipment was properly calibrated and maintained.