Decriminalization of Marijuana: How Are DWIs Affected?
As decriminalization of marijuana spreads across the United States, from California to Washington D.C and many states in between, many questions are being raised about how the changes marijuana laws will affect other laws, such as possession and DWIs (driving while intoxicated, also known as DUIs).
While a simple possession charge may be more relaxed if an offer comes across you on the street with a small amount of marijuana, driving while intoxicated – even if it’s on legal medical marijuana – is still a serious offense.
Today we’ll answer the most common questions we hear about marijuana and DWIs in Missouri.
Can You Still Get a DWI if You’ve Taken Marijuana But Not Alcohol?
Yes. While DWI charges are often based on BAC (blood alcohol concentration), it’s not the only way you can be given a DWI. A DWI can be given if someone behind the wheel of a vehicle is in an intoxicated condition. “Intoxicated” includes being under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs, controlled substances, or any other combination of these.
Essentially, once you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, it doesn’t matter what substance you’re intoxicated on, only that you either are or aren’t.
Can I Refuse a Drug or Alcohol Test?
No, when you operate a motor vehicle in Missouri you have given your implied consent to submit to testing of your blood, breath, saliva, or urine to determine if you are under the influence or not. If you refuse, you will be found guilty of driving under the influence and will have your license suspended for a year (regardless of what the testing actually finds), so it’s always in your best interest to submit to testing, even if you know you will be found to be driving while intoxicated.
What Penalties Are There For Driving While High?
Despite marijuana becoming decriminalization in many states and a relaxation in possession laws even within Missouri (though that’s still at the discretion of individual officers and judges), driving under the influence of any substance is a serious offense. While you may feel completely in control of your faculties, the law has to penalize all citizens in the same way, regardless of how individuals feel while under the influence of marijuana.
Therefore, the DWI laws for being under the influence of marijuana are the same as normal DWI charges, and the penalties are as follows:
- First Offense is a class B misdemeanor which has a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in jail, 30 days license suspension, and you must complete a driver’s substance abuse program.
- Second Offense within 5 years is a class A misdemeanor which has a maximum penalty of up to 1 year in jail (with a minimum of 5 days), 30 days of community service, a fine of up to $1,000, and your license will be suspended for two years.
- Third Offense is a class D felony which has a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison (no less than 5 days), 60 days of community service, a fine of up to $5,000, and your license will be revoked for at least 3 years.
- Fourth Offense is a class C felony which has a maximum penalty of up to 7 years in prison (no less than 60 days), a fine of up to $5,000, and your license will be revoked for at least 3 years.
- Fifth Offense is a class B felony which has a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison (no less than 5 years), and your license will be revoked for at least 3 years.
What Should I Do if I am Pulled Over While Intoxicated?
Though it may go against your instincts to do so, comply with all the officer’s requests. Show them your identification and if they ask to test you, comply and stay calm. Do not admit to being under the influence of marijuana unless they have proof that you are. If they find you are intoxicated, request to speak to an attorney. It’s always a good idea to have an attorney in mind so you won’t waste time and can get a trusted criminal defense lawyer on your case as soon as possible.
Does Missouri Do Sobriety Checkpoints?
Yes, that means that Missouri officers can set up checkpoints to test drivers at random. Once in sight of a checkpoint sign, you cannot avoid it by doing a U-turn as in most cases there will be officers who will follow you and pull you over, since they have probable cause that you are indeed driving under the influence.
They can also set up a “fake” checkpoint sign, such as on a highway before an offramp, where they’ll pull vehicles over who seem to be avoiding the checkpoint on suspicion of being intoxicated.
Can I Get a DWI I Got While High Expunged in Missouri?
In Missouri, you can get a first-offense DWI expunged (removed) from your driving record after 10 years, if you ask them to do so. If your offense was for drug intoxication instead of alcohol, this is not the case. However, this may change in the future for marijuana intoxication if it is legalized for recreational use.
I’m Going to Get a DWI for Marijuana Intoxication in Missouri, What Should I Do?
If you were arrested for driving while intoxicated for marijuana intoxication in Missouri, it’s vital you contact an experienced DWI criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Losing your license, even just temporarily for the minimum 30 days, can cause you serious difficulty and can even prevent you from earning your living. Your Missouri DWI lawyer may be able to prevent license suspension completely, so it’s worth speaking to one as soon as possible.
We at Combs Law Group have experienced DWI attorneys dedicated to fighting DWI cases just like yours, and will fight aggressively to ensure your charges are minimized or even dismissed. Contact us today for a free case evaluation so we can start working on your case as soon as possible.