The treatment of marijuana has changed a lot in recent years. Marijuana has been approved for medical use in Virginia and has even been legalized for recreational use in other states. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia still takes marijuana use seriously when it comes to driving. Driving under the influence of marijuana can result in criminal DUI charges, fines, loss of a driver's license, and possible jail time.
When the police pull over a vehicle and smell marijuana, the driver may be facing drug DUI charges in addition to possible drug possession charges. A DUI arrest does not mean you are guilty. If you are facing a marijuana DUI in Virginia, contact an experienced Charlottesville DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-266(iii), it is unlawful for a driver to be “under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle.”
This applies to marijuana, marijuana derivatives, and combinations of marijuana and other drugs or alcohol.
When charged with a marijuana DUI in Virginia, the prosecutor will attempt to prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes presenting evidence to show that the driver was impaired and the driver was under the influence of marijuana. Evidence in drug DUI cases generally relies on police reports, police testimony, and drug test results.
Medical Marijuana DUI in Virginia
In 2018, the Virginia legislature voted to allow doctors in Virginia to recommend the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil or THC-A oil for the treatment of diagnosed diseases or conditions. This does not technically legalize cannabis oil in Virginia but it provides an affirmative defense for individuals who are in possession of cannabis oil with a doctor's recommendation.
However, medical marijuana does not have any impact on Virginia's impaired driving laws. A driver can be arrested and charged with a drug DUI even if a doctor has recommended cannabis for the individual. Similarly, a driver can be charged for a drug DUI while taking prescription medication that was prescribed by a doctor.
Penalties for Marijuana DUI
The penalties for a marijuana DUI are basically the same as the consequences of any DUI. A driver faces the same criminal charges if he or she is driving impaired under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, narcotics, or over-the-counter medication.
Penalties for a marijuana DUI are generally based on the driver's criminal history, whether anyone was injured or killed, and if the individual refused to submit to a chemical test.
The penalties for a first marijuana DUI include the following.
- Maximum fine of $2,500 and one year in jail.
- Mandatory minimum fine of $250.
- Seven-day administrative license suspension.
- Twelve-month license suspension by the court.
The penalties increase with a second marijuana DUI within 10 years and can include
- Fine of from $500 to $2,500,
- Twenty-day mandatory minimum jail sentence, and
- License suspension for three years by DMV.
A third DUI within 10 years is a felony, with additional penalties to include the following.
- Fine of from $1000 to $2,500.
- Ninety-day mandatory minimum jail time.
- Not eligible for restricted license.
- License suspended indefinitely but may petition after five years.
- May petition for restricted license three years after date of conviction. Limited to driving to and from work and in course of employment.
- Vehicle forfeiture.
License Suspension After Marijuana DUI in Virginia
One of the most difficult penalties of a marijuana DUI involves the loss of the individual's driving privileges. A first-time DUI can lead to a suspended license for a year. However, the driver may petition for a restricted license that allows for limited driving, including to and from work or school.
Related Drug Possession Charges
A marijuana DUI generally results in a search of the driver and the driver's vehicle. If the individual has marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia, he or she may also face criminal drug charges.
Marijuana possession charges can be a misdemeanor. However, if there is a large enough amount or there is other evidence of sales, the individual may face more serious charges of marijuana trafficking or drug possession with intent to sell.
Marijuana Blood Testing for Drug DUIs
Drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana are required to submit a blood test sample. The blood test will check for the presence of marijuana (or other drugs) in the driver's system. The blood test results can be used as evidence in a criminal DUI trial to show the driver was under the influence of marijuana at the time of arrest.
Refusing a blood test after arrest can result in a mandatory license suspension. Refusing a chemical test carries a mandatory one-year license suspension. Additionally, after refusing a chemical test, the driver is not eligible for a restricted driver's license in Virginia.
Charlottesville Marijuana DUI Lawyer
Using marijuana can lead to an impaired driving arrest long after the effects of the drug have worn off. A marijuana DUI can also include charges for drug possession, increasing the penalties and consequences. Before pleading guilty to a drug DUI in Virginia, make sure you understand how DUI defenses can help you fight criminal charges.
If you were arrested for a drug DUI in Charlottesville or Albemarle County, talk to an experienced DUI defense attorney about how to fight criminal charges. Contact attorney Thomas M. Wilson today for a free consultation.