Although Colorado has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, it remains highly regulated, and there are many ways in which you can get into legal trouble by using it. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is one of those ways. Although fewer than 10 percent of all DUI arrests are based solely on suspected marijuana use, this statistic is meaningless if you are one of the drivers arrested.
Studies that measure the increased auto accident crash risk associated with marijuana are inconsistent with each other – some find increased risk associated with marijuana use, while others find no increased risk at all. Regardless of which studies are accurate, however, “stoned” driving can dramatically increase your risk of going to jail or losing your driver’s license. Teaming up with an experienced marijuana DUI defense attorney in Colorado Springs may be your best solution for protecting your freedom, your records, and your reputation.
If You Are Arrested for a Marijuana DUI
Regardless of the popular conception that “stoned” driving is safer than drunk driving, if you are pulled over for a marijuana DUI, you will be treated the same way as a drunk driving suspect, except that you will be subject to a blood test rather than a breathalyzer test (you may be subjected to both). Although formally the penalties are exactly the same, the judge enjoys some discretion in sentencing.
The fact that marijuana has been legalized for recreational use will not help you any more than the fact that alcohol is legal would help you in an alcohol DUI case. If you are also found to have even a small amount of alcohol in your system, it is possible that you might be treated even more harshly than a driver who was intoxicated on alcohol alone. A smart DUI marijuana defense attorney will know how to help you avoid convictions or at least minimize the charges.
Experience is Everything
Colorado criminal court is not like small claims court. Complex rules of evidence and civil procedure apply, and you better believe that the prosecutor is not your friend. The Colorado criminal justice system is adversarial to its core – you will have to fight for fair treatment; otherwise, the system will devour you. With your freedom on the line, now is not the time to go it alone.
Don’t despair. My name Is Christian Schwaner, and I am a Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer who has successfully represented a multitude of marijuana DUI defendants. I have been representing criminal defendants for two decades right here in Colorado, and I know the system inside and out. Naturally, I cannot guarantee you an acquittal, but I can promise you a fighting chance.
Other Types of Cases That I Handle
DUI Defense: The defense of an alcohol DUI charge differs in some ways from the defense of a marijuana DUI charge, even though technically they are the same charge. Additionally, you can be convicted of DWAI with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of as low as 0.02 if you are under 21.
Domestic Violence: In Colorado, domestic violence is a sentencing enhancer rather than a separate charge itself. Unfortunately, you lose many of your rights once the “domestic violence” designation has been applied to your case. You will need a good criminal defense lawyer to make sure that you are treated fairly.
Military Personnel Charged with DUI: The consequences of a DUI can be multiplied if you are a member of the armed services. I am experienced in successfully representing DUI defendants in civilian courts. Although I cannot represent you before a military tribunal, an acquittal in civilian court can greatly help your cause in the military justice system.
Felony Crimes: Conviction of a felony generally involves jail time, and the consequences of a felony conviction can haunt you for the rest of your life in so many different ways. A good Colorado criminal defense lawyer can seek an acquittal or plea bargain your charge down to a misdemeanor.
Drug Possession and Distribution: Penalties for drug possession and distribution vary widely, depending on the type and amount of the drug involved, but they max out at 32 years in prison. You can even be sent to prison for possession of a sufficient quantity of marijuana.
Other Charges: The foregoing five types of criminal charges are not the only kind of criminal charges that I handle. A domestic violence designation, for example, can be applied to a wide variety of independent charges including assault, stalking, and sex crimes. Sometimes, I represent clients charged with such crimes even when no domestic violence designation has been applied.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the penalties of a first-offense marijuana DUI?
Conviction of a first-offense marijuana DUI could subject you to the following penalties:
- Five days to one year in jail
- A fine of $600 to $1,000
- A driver’s license suspension of nine months
- Forty-eight to 96 hours of community service
- Probation for up to two years
Can I beat a DUI charge by proving that I was using marijuana for medical purposes?
No, not unless you can show that you were not intoxicated at the time of your arrest. Otherwise, your use of marijuana for medical purposes will be treated the same as intoxication from a legal prescription drug, which can also support a DUI charge.
Is there an extra penalty if there were minors in the car with me at the time I was arrested?
Yes. Under these circumstances, a charge of child abuse can be added to your original DUI charge. Conviction of child abuse may carry a harsher sentence than a DUI conviction.
Why did the police arrest the passengers in my car, as well?
If your passengers were smoking marijuana in your car at the time of your arrest, they could be arrested under Colorado’s prohibition against smoking marijuana on public roadways. If the container of marijuana was open, they might have also violated Colorado’s open container law.
What happens if I refuse to take a marijuana blood test?
If you refuse the test, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least one year, regardless of whether or not you are ever convicted of DUI. You refusal can also be used against you for your DUI charge.
Will it matter if I was under the influence of a combination of alcohol and marijuana at the same time?
Although the charge will be the same (DUI), your penalty might be harsher, even if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) turned out to be under the legal limit for driving.
What telltale signs of marijuana intoxication will an officer look for?
Colorado police officers are trained to detect marijuana intoxication. Some of the “telltale signs” are:
- Elevated heartbeat
- Red eyes
- Odor of marijuana on your breath
- “Cotton mouth”
- Dilated pupils
- Impaired coordination
- The “munchies” (candy bar wrappers on the floor, for example)
How can marijuana affect my driving?
Marijuana is thought to cause the following impairments:
- Slowed reaction time
- Impaired judgment of distance
- Impaired judgment of time
- Impaired short-term memory
Different people may react differently to the same dose of marijuana.
Are marijuana blood tests reliable?
Not particularly. In fact, their reliability is so much in doubt that Oregon refuses to use them, and instead relies on officer testimony. Although there are ways that a marijuana blood test can be challenged by a good marijuana DUI defense attorney, Colorado also relies heavily on officer testimony.
Is there a chart that can tell me how many “joints” I can smoke within a certain specified time and still be legal to drive?
No. The effect of marijuana on various individuals is far more variable than the effect of alcohol on the same individuals. You might exceed the legal limit of five nanograms of THC without even being intoxicated. This ambiguity makes it difficult to determine whether you are fit to drive legally.
Conviction for a marijuana DUI can result in jail time, loss of your driver’s license, a fine, community service, a permanent criminal record, loss of your job, and even loss of the right to enter certain professions. Considering what is at stake, you should not take your decision to retain a marijuana DUI defense lawyer lightly – it could mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal.
Law is not like medicine – a doctor needs years of postgraduate training to enter a specialty, while a lawyer fresh out of law school can legally practice in nearly any area of law. Even a lawyer with experience in another field of law, who only dabbles in DUI cases, is not likely to serve you much better than a young lawyer who has just passed the bar.
I am a Former Prosecutor
As a former Deputy District Attorney in Teller and El Paso counties, and a former special prosecutor in Pueblo and Canon City, I have seen how the criminal justice system works from both sides of the aisle, and I know how prosecutors’ minds work. As your marijuana DUI defense lawyer, I can offer you my total personal commitment to your case.
If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI in Colorado Springs or nearby environs, call me at 719-577-9700 or fill out my online contact form for a free initial consultation so that we can discuss your options in person. If you are in jail, we can even hold the consultation there.