The rules of marijuana use are becoming increasingly blurred as some states have adopted laws making this substance legal. In New York, possession of marijuana is still illegal, although some state bills are going through the legislative process that if passed, would make medical marijuana legal. However, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all 50 states, including New York.
A common misconception is that a DUI pertains to alcohol only. In truth, there is such a thing as a “marijuana DUI,” which also comes with significant consequences. Although defining laws, as well as applicable punishments for being “under the influence” of marijuana vary from one state to the next, this is a punishable crime across the board. Simply put, a driver under the influence of marijuana is incapable of operating a motor vehicle in a safe manner.
For alcohol, a driver is “under the influence” when blood alcohol level is 0.08 or above, but the approach for marijuana is unique. For instance, some states use “per se” laws, meaning that any amount of this drug found in the driver’s system at the time of the offense constitutes impairment. Other methods for determining probable cause for a marijuana DUI include checking blood and/or urine concentration level and the driver’s behavior and/or actions at the time of the incident.
Penalties of Marijuana DUI
In New York, driving “under the influence” of marijuana is a crime. Any time marijuana is involved, regardless of the amount found in the driver’s blood or urine while operating a motor vehicle, that individual is considered “under the influence.” As outlined, the punishment imposed depends on several factors.
- First conviction—A fine between $500 and $1,000, up to one year in jail, a combination of fine and jail time, and a suspended license up to six months.
- Second conviction within 10 years of the first conviction—A fine between $1,000 and $5,000, a minimum of five days in jail or up to four years in prison, a combination of fine and jail/prison time, and a suspended license up to one year. The driver may also be ordered to 30 days of community service and participation in a substance abuse treatment or educational program.
- Third and subsequent convictions—A fine between $2,000 and $10,000, a minimum of seven days in jail or up to seven years in prison, a combination of fine and jail/prison time, suspended license for at least one year, and an ignition interlock device at the conclusion of the suspension period.
As you can see, a marijuana DUI is just as serious as an alcohol DUI. If you have been charged with this crime, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Although punishments associated with a marijuana DUI are governed by statutory law, you still need a qualified lawyer working in your corner, even for a misdemeanor.
An attorney with experience will first evaluate the strength of any evidence against you, followed by going over all your options, determining whether you have a chance of beating the charge, and offering support throughout the process.