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Operating While Intoxicated – Marijuana and the Law

By Daniel T. Geherin

The State of Michigan legalized marijuana use for adults over the age of 21 in 2018. Since then, several states such as Illinois and Minnesota have followed suit. Despite wider use of marijuana, Michigan Law doesn’t permit driving under the influence of marijuana. 

As a specialized DUI attorney in Washtenaw County, we have been asked questions about the effect of driving high on DUI cases, such as:

·      What penalties could I face for driving under the influence of marijuana?

·      What tests can an officer perform on a driver suspected of driving high?

·      Which attorney should I call if I’m arrested for OWI/Marijuana?

An individual may be prosecuted for an OWI due to marijuana use. Michigan Law treats marijuana as an intoxicating substance and forbids a person from operating a vehicle if his or her ability to do so is impaired. Officers have to prove that THC was present in the suspect’s system and affected their ability to operate a vehicle in a normal manner. 

Officers will pull someone over for signs of impairment, like speeding or swerving. When observing the driver, an officer will look for disorientation, smell of marijuana, blood shot eyes, and so on. Officers will ask questions like what substance was used, as well as how/when it was consumed. Field sobriety tests will be utilized, including but not limited to the walk and turn, one leg stand, or a preliminary breath test to rule out alcohol. 

Once probable cause is established, officers will move fast to secure evidence. For example, an officer could perform a blood draw and/or search the vehicle for evidence to seize pursuant to an inventory search. While investigating, at least one of the officers should be specially-trained as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). The State relies on the testimony of these officers to render opinions about the effect of marijuana on the suspect’s ability to drive.

Penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are similar to those for alcohol, and may include up to 93 days in jail, a $500 fine, license suspension, and points on your driving record.

If you’re looking for a specialized criminal defense attorney in Ann Arbor  to handle your DUI/OWI case in Washtenaw County, please consider calling the criminal defense attorneys at GLG Michigan. We can be reached 24/7 at (734) 263-2780, or via email. If you’ve been arrested and charged for a DUI due to alcohol or marijuana, we offer free telephone and office consultations. We’ll happily discuss why we believe we’re the perfect firm to answer your questions and help put your life back together following a DUI arrest.