When getting their driver’s licenses, drivers are told time and again that drinking and driving can lead to a pricey driving while under the influence (DUI) charge. Such offenders are incredibly dangerous not only to themselves, but also to others on the road. But what about recreational marijuana? Recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada for adults 21 and older, but driving while high is not. But because marijuana use is legal and generally considered safer than alcohol, public safety experts are worried that drivers will light up before starting up their cars without a second thought. This could lead not just to DUI charges, but to fatalities on the road.
A recent study by AAA Foundation has shown that more Washington state drivers are getting behind the wheel while high. There is concern that this will become a trend, resulting in more THC-impaired fatal crashes in the United States, especially in the 11 states where recreational marjuana use is legal.
The study analyzed fatal car crashes in the state of Washington from 2012 — the year recreational marijuana was legalized in the state — to 2017. Researchers found that in that five-year time period, 18% of drivers involved in fatal car accidents tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. In the five-year time period of 2008 to 2012, the rate of drivers testing positive for THC was just 8.8%.
The study also showed that in the same years, the annual number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for marijuana rose from 56 to 130. However, the study did not focus on whether marijuana consumption contributed to the auto accidents. It also does not indicate whether fatal car crashes have increased in states where marijuana is legal.
Marijuana DUI Laws in Nevada
Driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana is against the law in Nevada. It may seem like driving while high is harmless, or at least less harmful than driving while under the influence of alcohol, but that may not be true, considering that everyone tolerates substances differently. Marijuana intoxication can have similar effects as alcohol intoxication. Marijuana can have big effects on a driver’s judgment, reaction time, and coordination.
Besides alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly detected drug found in drivers. A 2013 study found that driving while under the influence of marijuana can increase the chance of getting in a car accident by 83%, and alcohol increases those chances by 2,200%. So while driving under the influence of marijuana seems less likely to cause a crash, it’s still an added risk to be avoided at all costs.
What Evidence Is Grounds for a DUI?
Getting pulled over is every driver’s nightmare — including when they are under the influence of marijuana, as this can lead to fines, court dates, and even jail time. A driver is considered under the influence of marijuana if:
- The marijuana has impaired the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle
- The driver’s blood contains 2 nanograms per ml. of marijuana (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) or 5 nanograms per ml. of marijuana metabolite (11-OH-tetrahydrocannabinol).
However, determining a driver’s level of marijuana intoxication can be challenging, as THC can stay in the body for anywhere from one to 30 days, depending on how often and in what manner the driver uses the substance. But even if it cannot be proven that a driver had THC in their system when they were pulled over, police officers may use the following as evidence that a driver is under the influence of marijuana:
- Driving erratically (weaving within lanes, swerving, failure to obey traffic signals, driving slowly, etc.)
- Smelling like marijuana or having red eyes or dilated pupils
- Discovering marijuana in the driver’s vehicle
- Statements from witnesses
- The driver’s general demeanor
- Failure to pass field sobriety tests (being unable to walk heel to toe in a straight line, follow an object with the eyes, etc.)
- Failure to pass a breath test
- Refusal to participate in field sobriety tests
What Are the Consequences of a DUI of Marijuana?
Driving under the influence of marijuana has similar consequences to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Drivers may receive the following consequences for a first offense of DUI of marijuana in Nevada:
- Two days to six months of jail time, or 24 to 96 hours of community service
- Attending Nevada DUI School at your own cost
- A fine of $400 to $1,000
- Participating in the Nevada Victim Impact Panel
- 90-day driver’s license suspension
- Consequences for getting arrested again while the case is still open
- Various court fees
Finding a Marijuana Attorney in Nevada
If you or someone you know has been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana in Nevada, you are strongly advised to seek legal counsel. An auto accident attorney at Shook & Stone can help you get the legal representation you need for the best outcome of your case. Our initial case consultations are free of cost, and you don’t need to pay anything until we win your case. Contact Shook & Stone online here or call us at (844) 216-0111 to find an attorney who will fight for you.