DUI - Marijuana and DWAI Laws in Colorado
Feb. 21, 2023
It is not unusual for people to hear driving under the influence and immediately think alcohol. The Colorado law defining DUI states it is the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The law is expansive enough to include any drug that impairs a person’s ability to physically or mentally safely operate a motor vehicle.
A person charged with a DUI would face two charges at trial. The jury can consider whether the defendant is substantially impaired. If a jury finds the defendant not guilty of driving under the influence, the jury can consider whether a defendant committed the offense of driving while ability is impaired. Driving while ability is impaired is the operation of a motor vehicle while a defendant’s ability to drive is impaired to the slightest degree by drugs or alcohol.
A DWAI could have the same impacts that a DUI would have on a defendant’s life. It is important to speak with a DUI Colorado Attorney if you are facing a criminal charge. The Lawrence Law Firm has a skilled criminal defense attorney that regularly handles marijuana DUI Colorado cases. Our DUI Defense firm provides defense cases in Denver and the surrounding metro area in Colorado.
What is DWAI in Colorado?
Driving while ability is impaired is the operation of a motor vehicle while a defendant is impaired. The jury instruction reads impaired to the slightest degree by drugs or alcohol. That language is dangerous to people accused of DWAI.
A common police tactic is to ask defendants to rate their impairment. The arresting officer will propose the driver rate their level of impairment on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 would be completely sober. A 10 would be the drunkest a person has ever been. A person who admits to the consumption of substances will typically rate themselves above a 1.
Jurors after trial have told dui lawyers the admission of being above a 1 has been enough to find a defendant guilty of DWAI. The same jurors will state its permissible to have a glass of wine or beer at dinner before driving home.
This is all to say that jurors are understandably tough on DWAI cases. It is easy to find impairment to the slightest degree. Our firm routinely goes to trial on domestic violence and other serious felony cases. We attempt to speak jurors after every case.
Jurors on DUI cases are not always as opened minded as jurors on other cases. A DUI or DWAI is a lot more relatable to the average person. Public campaigns tell jurors buzzed driving is drunk driving, and we all understand the dangers a DUI driver poses. Most jurors will not question law enforcement who say they thought a defendant was impaired.
It takes a skilled DWAI Defense Attorney to get the best outcome in these types of cases.
How does the use of marijuana affect a DWAI case in Colorado?
Alcohol has legal limits in Colorado. A person who operates a car with a BAC greater than .08 can be convicted of DUI. A BAC greater than .05 is considered a DWAI.
Marijuana only has one limit under Colorado law. A person can be convicted of DUI if they have more than 5 nanograms of THC in their blood.
The THC must be an active THC. Law enforcement will do a blood test. This test will first determine if there are cannabinoids present in the blood. A second test will determine if the level of active and unactive THC metabolites.
5 nanograms of THC is a low amount. The average edible contains 10 nanograms. Smoking marijuana will usually result in a blood concentration greater than 5 nanograms quickly. This is because smoking marijuana will introduce THC into your blood stream directly thought absorption through the lungs.
Unlike alcohol, there is no lower limit for DWAI. A prosecutor could pursue charges against a defendant with any active THC in their system. This all comes down to the language of the jury instruction. Impaired to the slightest degree could mean any degree of impairment.
Usually, a toxicologist is required to explain to a jury the difference between alcohol and THC. There are also significant differences between THC and alcohol. These two substances have vastly different effects on a person. A DUI defense attorney is an important ally in handling these types of charges.
How are DUI and DWAI punished in the State of Colorado?
The maximum jail sentence for a DUI in one year in jail. A first DWAI can be punished by up to six months. The possible jail sentence is typically irrelevant because first DUI offenses are rarely punished with jail.
Each will have a probationary sentence imposed. Probation will require a defendant to complete substance abuse classes, monitored sobriety, and community service. Probation also has other standard terms and conditions.
A second offense is punishable by a mandatory 10-day jail sentence. A third offense carries a possible 60-day jail sentence. It is important to remember that mandatory minimum jail sentences are just that.
Courts can and do routinely go above the mandatory minimum sentences. In some cases, jail can be served as in-home detention. It is important to speak with a DUI law firm to fully understand what you are looking at.
Finally, a fourth DUI or DWAI offense is considered a felony. At this point, the conversation switches from a conversation about days to a conversation about years.
An experienced DUI defense attorney will help understand the dui charges you are facing. This will include the possible penalties you face for a conviction for driving under the influence of marijuana.
Speak with a DUI Defense Attorney Today.
A DWAI can seriously impact a defendant’s life. It may seem simple and straight forward, but this kind of case can be complicated. It is important to speak with a DUI Defense Attorney that understands the complexities of a DUI case.
The law surrounding actual physical control is complex. The Lawrence Law Firm understands the cases surrounding this topic and monitors any change in the law.
Our firm routinely handles DWAI Cases. We are ready, willing, and able to provide you the representation you deserve. We offer free consultations and flexible payment plans. Our goal is to provide aggressive representation to anyone who needs it, while no sacrificing any defendants because of budget.
Our defense lawyer routinely represents clients in Arapahoe, Denver, Adams, Jefferson, and any metro case. Our firm offers appointments afterhours or on the weekends.
Request a free consultation from our DUI attorneys today. We can help anyone facing DUI charges in the Denver Are.