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Marijuana DUI: How to protect yourself if you get pulled over

The police will be handing out more DUIs and DUI-Ds for marijuana as multiple states come to grips with regulating recreational and medical marijuana, including Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon. Since marijuana does not leave the body at the same rate as alcohol, regular marijuana users are at higher risk of receiving a DUI or DUI-D if they drive daily. Driving under the influence is a serious charge that can result in life-changing events. What should you do if you get a DUI-D or DUI for marijuana in one of these states where weed is legal?


Do

Do state your rights, stay silent and unemotional

Your words and behavior will be documented, and can be misinterpreted and used against you. No matter how confused, angry, sorrowful or guilty you feel, it's important to remain silent and calm so you don't create more evidence against yourself that could make your case worse and even create additional charges.

For instance, talking about how much marijuana you had, how and where you consumed it, and even talking about your kids could result in additional charges, higher fines, or a mandatory jail sentence. It is illegal to smoke on public roads and other places, open container and child endangerment laws exist, and verbal statements might end up supporting otherwise inadmissible evidence or contribute to establishing total consumption. Waving your arms could be interpreted as erratic or threatening behavior.

Even if you have already started talking, you can assert your right to stay silent and your right to have an attorney present at any time. If you are in custody and being interrogated, the police must read you your Miranda rights. You must state out loud to the police your intention to be silent, and state out loud that you want an attorney present with every new charge and every new attempt by the police to interrogate you (Oregon v. Elstad 470 U.S. 298 (1985)).

Do call an experienced DUI attorney right away

An experienced DUI attorney will know what evidence can be used against you and what evidence can help get your case dismissed. The attorney will advise you how to proceed based on necessary legal procedures and your personal history and circumstances, and can tell you what to expect. An experienced attorney will be knowledgeable of new laws and regulations, and be familiar with the habits of police, prosecuting attorneys and judges.

Colorado and other states are undergoing extensive reform with their marijuana laws, and these new laws affect evidence and arguments on your behalf. For instance, the THC drugged driving law means a jury can infer a driver was under the influence if five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) appears in a blood test. Prior to this law, the meaning of a blood test could be argued.

Do save money

Once you receive a DUI for marijuana, you will have several court dates, even if your case gets dismissed. Depending on your personal circumstances, this could result in lost wages, transportation costs, child care costs, and attorney fees. You may also be subject to fees related to your driver's license, drug counseling, and if marijuana and alcohol was involved, an ignition interlock device. If you are convicted or receive a lesser charge, you will be subject to substantial fines, and may also incur lost wages, transportation costs and child care costs if you are ordered to perform community service or required to serve time in jail.

Do prepare to look good

Your character, background and appearance matter, and can affect your sentencing. Make sure your attorney is aware of any prior traffic or criminal related offenses and drug related medical history. Some states have habitual offender laws that put you at risk for higher fines and stronger penalties. Inform your attorney, and your attorney only, of your current drug use. Ask your attorney if you should make an appointment for drug counseling prior to the first court date. If able, stay employed or continue seeking employment. If applicable, stay in school and don't miss school. Plan to wear neat, clean clothes to court. Many judges interpret neat, professional appearances as respect for the court. You want every advantage you can have.

Do get your medical and vehicle records

If you use marijuana or other drugs for medical purposes, or if you use recreational marijuana but suffer from chronic pain, get your medical records together. Create a list of your treating physicians, their addresses and phone numbers, and get a list of your prescriptions and doses. Your pharmacy may be able to print out your prescription history records for you. Get a statement of your disability or condition from your physician and make sure you have your medical marijuana card.

Doctors and pharmacies are busy, so don't wait until the last minute. You want to make sure your records are available for court in case they are requested. Make sure you have your driver’s license, registration and insurance records in order. Take care of past due fines and lapses. If you had a defect in your vehicle that caused you to be pulled over, get together any records applicable to the defect and the fix.


Don't

Do not ignore the DUI

Ignoring your DUI charge will only result in your arrest and guarantee jail time. Call an attorney as soon as you get charged.

Do not talk to strangers or police

The police and the prosecuting attorney do not have your best interest in mind. There are possibilities and circumstances they won't tell you. Attorneys hire investigators and talk to people. Don't talk to strangers or discuss the matter outside the realm of your immediate trusted family. Don't talk about how much you consumed, or about your actions preceding the DUI or DUI-D charge. You do not want to risk any information being used against you, and you don’t want to risk surprise witnesses coming to the stand.

Do not miss court or break bail agreements

If you live in the state where you were given a DUI and are ordered to stay in the state, don't leave the state, even if you think you won't get caught and believe you'll be back in time for court. If the slightest problem arises (traffic accident that is someone else's fault, or an unforeseen weather delay) and you don't make it to court, you will be arrested and put back in jail. If there is an unforeseeable urgent problem that warrants you to miss a court date (such as an immediate family member in the hospital or car trouble on the way to court), call your attorney and give notice as soon as possible. Get proof.

If you haven't missed any previous court dates, it's possible it can be rescheduled, but your attorney will need to show up on your behalf or make arrangements with the other attorneys and the court. Courts are generally unwilling to reschedule a DUI hearing. DUI court dates must be your priority.

Do not use marijuana unless medically necessary

Keep yourself clean for impending drug tests. Although it's not illegal for you to use marijuana recreationally, you'll make the best impression for the judge if you have a recent drug-free blood test on record. Most importantly, don't risk driving with marijuana, alcohol or other drugs in your system. Make a plan for alternative transportation before its needed.

Do not drive with a revoked or suspended license

In many states, a driving under suspension charge requires mandatory jail time and expensive fines. The state where you were convicted will communicate with other states regarding probation and license statuses. You can't run from a DUI marijuana, you must deal with it. An experienced attorney can help you along the way.


Summary
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A DUI-D or DUI for marijuana is an expensive, time-consuming cumbersome charge. While your DUI attorney is researching and planning your legal strategy, be proactive. Create a record of behavior and gather a paper trail of evidence that works in your favor. An experienced attorney will tell you how.


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Jay TiftickjianDenver DUI Attorney

Jay Tiftickjian is a trial lawyer, author, and legal analyst. One of the state’s top DUI defense attorneys, Tiftickjian has received extensive training in DUI techniques and has been called upon multiple times to organize Colorado Criminal Defen...

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