During the holidays DUI enforcement increases dramatically. Unfortunately, this large net will inevitably capture cannabis users who were not driving while impaired.
As most of you know, in a last minute political compromise, the Colorado legislature passed a marijuana DUI law that creates an inference that a person with 5 ng. of THC in their blood is DUI. Such levels are common, even considered low, for regular cannabis users.
Moreover, the 5 ng. threshold is dubious science at best and, in many scientific circles, completely wrong. These cases are defensible on many levels including attacking the science of a 5 ng. threshold and also whether cannabis even impairs driving at all.
However, an ounce of prevention is worth the expense of mounting a defense.
Here are seven tips to help you or your friends who use cannabis:
- Do not travel with cannabis in the car. The smell of cannabis is the most likely cause of the police officer’s suspicion;
- If you do travel with cannabis in the car, place it in a scent proof container (glass or other such container) in the trunk. It is illegal to have cannabis in an open container in the car and the police have a right to search your car if arrested;
- Do not smoke in the car;
- Do not consent to a search of the car;
- Do not admit to consuming cannabis. If the officer presses you, tell him or her,“I have friends that are attorneys and they have told me not to answer these types of questions.” Do not lie. Simply repeat this phrase. Most juries will hold the lie against you, but may also have heard you should not answer these types of questions;
- Do not do roadside tests. They are voluntary and you will not lose your license if you refuse. This includes the “following the pen with your eyes test.” The police will not be fair in evaluating your performance and it will be used against you; and
- You do not have to do the blood test. However, if you refuse the DMV will take action against you for refusing. This action includes two months of no driving (not for work, the doctor or any other reason). You will get your license back after two months, but you must have an ignition interlock on your vehicle for two years. It only tests for alcohol, but it is expensive and a real pain in the rear. Additionally, you will need SR-22 insurance for one year and you will have to complete 12 alcohol and drug classes. Finally, please be advised that if you refuse the blood test the fact that you refused CAN be used against you at trial.
Finally, there is one important and creative way to protect yourself if you regularly use cannabis. Go to your primary care doctor and request a blood test that includes testing for THC. Then take the results back to your doctor and ask him or her if they believed you to be impaired when you made the request.
Let the doctor know you just came from work or some other task in which you were fully functional. See if the doctor will confirm, in writing, that despite your positive result for THC you were not impaired in their medical opinion.
This will provide you with a baseline for your normal THC level and that you were not impaired at that level. Then, if you take a blood test in the context of a DUI charge, you will have a baseline upon which to defend yourself. Perhaps you could ask a co-worker or friend to confirm that you were not impaired in the time just before or after the blood test.