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Does Driving High Heighten the Risk of a DUI?

Posted By David Hernandez || August 29, 2014


Hand Holding a Marijuana CigaretteMarijuana is becoming an increasingly more accessible drug across the country:
it’s being decriminalized in a majority of states, medical marijuanais legal in some parts of the country, and Washington and Colorado have made recreational marijuana legal.

With increased accessibility comes increased use, and that means more people are getting behind the wheel after smoking. In the two states where recreational marijuana is legal, driving high is becoming more of a concern. But, will driving high get you a DUI?

Let’s first consult the Standard Field Sobriety Test and compare its ability to identify a drunk driver to its ability to identify a stoned driver.

If you’re unfamiliar with the SFST, here are the three tasks an officer asks of a driver pulled over on the suspicion of intoxication: “follow a pen with your eyes while the officer moves it back and forth; get out
of the car and walk nine steps, heel to toe, turn around on one foot and go back; and stand on one leg for 30 seconds.”

If you complete these tasks without too much wobbling, you’ve effectively proven that you are not too intoxicated to operate a vehicle. This test has shown to detect 88% of drivers under the influence of alcohol, according to an article from the New York Times.

On the flip side, research shows that only 30% of people under the influence of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — failed the SFST. According to the article, a stoned driver who is accustomed to driving stoned is much more likely to pass the test because the body adjusts to THC.

The same isn’t true for alcohol. A person who consumes five alcoholic drinks for the first time will be just as impaired as a seasoned consumer of five drinks. Driving after drinking will always have the same result: danger.

But, as the number of high drivers continues to increase, it will become more and more important to determine whether high driving should result in a DUI charge. It is important to know that DUI laws apply to marijuana.
But, the major question is this: How much will law enforcement focus on keeping high drivers off the road?

According the article, evidence proposed that there might be less to fear from high driving than drunk driving. Some researchers have even gone as far to suggest that already “limited [law enforcement] resources are better applied to continuing to reduce drunken driving.”

While it is clear that marijuana causes a deficiency in driving, and people should choose not to drive high, the likelihood of getting a DUI for doing so is slightly less. As of right now, officers will be focusing on getting drivers under the influence of alcohol off the road.

That being said, if an officer determines that you are driving under the influence of marijuana, and that your driving is impaired, you will most likely be issued a DUI charge. Being charged with driving under the influence, of alcohol or marijuana or any other drug, can have a detrimental effect on your life.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it may be in your best interest to contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer to assist you through the process.

Photo Credit:Torben Bjørn Hansen via Compfightcc

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