What You Need to Know About DUI Charges for Marijuana

Substances of many type can impair your ability to walk, talk, perform normally, and complete everyday activities, including driving. Impairment can be caused by substances on all levels, including 'soft drugs' like marijuana. Driving while under the influence of marijuana can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol and, like alcohol, although the use of cannabis in Canada is legal, driving under the influence is still illegal.

Marijuana can negatively impact motor skills, slow reaction times, hinder concentration, and impair your ability to make accurate or snap decisions, thus increasing the chances of a collision. Ideally, you should never drive under the influence of marijuana, but if you do, there may be some consequences for this mistake. Drivers who are caught driving impaired are usually arrested and charged with driving while impaired or under the influence (DUI). If you’re charged with a DUI, you could face a major fine, license suspension, or even jail time. When charged with a DUI, you need the help of an experienced lawyer, one who can help you achieve the best possible outcome.  

How Law Enforcement Detects Drug-Impaired Drivers

It has long been illegal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by drug or alcohol. However, the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in Canada has reinforced law enforcement’s efforts in detecting drug impaired drivers. Police officers are, and have been, trained to detect impaired driving by drug through the use of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) and Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) evaluations. However, after the legalization of recreational cannabis, new legislation was introduced to expand and improve testing and recognition.. Parliament has approved drug screening devices that detect the recent presence of THC from cannabis, and the use of methamphetamine and cocaine. It also allows officers to perform a SFST and/or demand an oral fluid sample if there are reasonable grounds, such as the driver is visibly agitated, shaky, unfocused, and basically appears to be 'high.'

Penalties for Drug-Impaired Driving Charges

Drug-impaired driving is considered a serious offence and the penalties for the charge range from minor to major. Depending on the province and the level or degree of offence, the penalties could range from a minimum fine to imprisonment. The seriousness of your penalty also depends on the level of THC found in your blood. Having less than 5 nanograms (ng) of THC per ml of blood isn’t considered a serious offence, and thus, will carry less serious consequences. On the other hand, having 5 or more nanograms of THC per ml of blood is considered the most serious offence. This represents severe impairment. When combined with alcohol, 50mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood is considered severe drug impairment. If high levels of THC are found in your blood, you could be criminally charged and subject to an array of penalties. These possible penalties for drivers in Alberta include:

  • First offence: minimum $1,000 fine, mandatory driving course, 90-day license suspension, one-year participation in the mandatory ignition interlock program, 3-day vehicle seizure, in addition to having a criminal record and increased insurance premiums

  • Second offence: Mandatory minimum 30-day imprisonment, minimum two-year driving prohibition, mandatory participation in the ignition interlock program, mandatory driving course, in addition to having a criminal record and increased insurance premiums,

  • Third offence and beyond: mandatory minimum 4-month imprisonment, minimum three-year driving prohibition, mandatory participation in the ignition interlock program, mandatory driving course, in addition to having a criminal record and increased insurance premiums

In response to the legalization of cannabis, the Government of Canada has significantly increased the nature and scope of police powers to investigate. The authority granted has not been tested in court for its constitutionality and is akin to entering uncharted waters. Therefore, it is essential that you contact an experienced DUI lawyer to discuss your options.

No matter the seriousness of the consequences, a DUI charge and/or conviction can be life altering. It’s something that should be taken seriously at all stages, which is why you should hire an experienced DUI lawyer as early in the process as possible. An experienced lawyer will ensure your charges are valid, make sure any invalid charges are immediately dropped, create a strong defense, file the proper paperwork and/or motions, expedite the trial process, and ensure you’re treated fairly and given the most lenient sentence.

If you've been charged with a DUI for marijuana, or other drug, or alcohol, call us today.

Rachel GrierDUI Lawyer