How New Jersey’s Marijuana Legalization Impacts DUI charges

  • Criminal Defense

Can You Be Charged With DUI Related to Marijuana in New Jersey?

While the terms DWI or DUI often make people think of driving after consuming alcohol, you can also face charges of DWI involving drugs. While there isn’t a breath test for drugs like marijuana or a common scale like there is for blood alcohol content, marijuana DUI testing is possible. And just because the state has legalized cannabis use doesn’t mean marijuana DUI is an outdated charge.

The Basics of Marijuana Legalization in the State

New Jersey passed the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMM) to make recreational cannabis legal for people who are at least 21 years old.

Under this act, you can legally buy certain amounts of recreational cannabis for personal use as long as you are doing so from licensed dispensaries. You are only allowed to buy up to one ounce of usable product at a time, and that equates to different amounts of various cannabis products.

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Remains Illegal

However, the fact that cannabis is now legal does not mean that you can legally operate a car under the influence of this drug. Marijuana is not like some other substances that are legal to buy and use, such as alcohol and prescription drugs (when purchased and used as directed by a doctor). Even though those products are legal, you can face a DUI charge if you use them and then drive under their influence.

Potential Consequences of a Marijuana DUI

Marijuana-related DUIs can come with severe penalties. As with alcohol-related DUIs, the penalties you face depend on whether you have a history of DUIs as well as the facts of the case. For example, if you were operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana and you caused an accident that injured someone else, you might face additional penalties.

For a first DUI offense without mitigating factors, you might face penalties that include fines, surcharges, up to 30 days in jail, and the suspension or loss of your license. After two DUI convictions, you might face up to 90 days in jail. A third DUI charge could lead to 180 days of jail time.

One important note about marijuana DUI charges is that they can’t be expunged. DUI defenses in New Jersey are considered traffic offenses rather than criminal charges. This can mean they are much more likely to stick on your record than other types of charges.

How Does a Marijuana DUI Work?

A breath blood content test doesn’t exist for marijuana testing. Typically, law enforcement identifies potential marijuana DUI cases based on how a person behaves or reacts during a traffic stop. If police have a reason to believe that you might be under the influence of marijuana while driving, they may ask you to submit to a blood or urine test.

Is It Possible to Defend Against a Charge of Marijuana DUI

Even if you fail a blood or urine test, there are options for defense against a marijuana DUI charge. Talking to a criminal defense lawyer can help you understand which strategy may be best for your defense.

The Ambiguity of Testing

THC lasts a fairly long time in your blood. This means that trace markers of marijuana can show up days or weeks after you used the drug.

Without other evidence of impaired driving, the prosecution may not be able to prove you were operating a vehicle under the influence simply because you tested positive for marijuana. Since recreational marijuana use is not illegal for adults in the state, a positive test doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to on its own.

Questioning Law Enforcement’s Assessment

In cases where a Drug Evaluation Expert—a specially trained law enforcement officer—determined that there was probable cause that you were drug impaired while driving, you might be able to attack their assessment. These individuals may have special training, but they are also human beings. They aren’t infallible, and if you can demonstrate that they made an error in the evaluation, it could strengthen your defense.

Failure to Follow Required Processes

Police officers and others within the criminal justice system must follow strict processes during traffic stops and arrests. If procedure wasn’t followed, you may be able to get charges against you dismissed. This isn’t always the case, and it depends on what procedures weren’t followed. A criminal defense attorney can review the facts of your traffic stop and arrest to understand if you have an option for leveraging errors.

Working With a Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Defense

A DUI of any type can have a huge impact on your future. By working with a criminal defense attorney, you get help protecting your rights now and enhancing your chance at a more positive future. An experienced criminal defense team reviews the facts of your case and helps you understand what your options are. They can also walk with you throughout your defense, standing up for you in court and working to protect your interests.

If you or someone in your family is facing a marijuana DUI charge, call The Hernandez Law Firm, P.C. at 732-582-5076. Getting professional help with your defense earlier rather than later can help enhance the chance at a better outcome.

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