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Driving High: Marijuana-Related Driving Arrests on the Rise in Spokane

Posted by Russell West | Aug 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

Between 2012 and 2013, the Washington State Toxicology Lab reported that the incidents of THC-related impaired driving arrests went from just 34 up to 89. This remarkable statistic is largely attributed to the State's legalization of cannabis use. In a hilarious video released by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the agency acknowledges the change in the law stating, “Grilling high is now legal; driving to get the propane you forgot is not.”  

While legal limits are set for blood-alcohol levels, marijuana has no such threshold for conviction of an impaired driving charge. This type of broad stroke legislation flies in the face of other sentencing guidelines that apply to possession. For instance, personal use of 1 oz. or less carries no penalty. Yet, more than that and you have a misdemeanor. Therefore, impaired driving laws do not focus on levels or consumption amounts the same way possession laws do. As a result, you could consume a very small amount of THC and be charged with impaired driving, while private possession of the same amount would not even warrant a citation.

Avoiding Conviction for Impaired Driving

The first advice every DUI attorney will give you is pretty straightforward – obey the law. In the event, however, you do violate the law, the best advice is do not admit anything until you speak with an attorney. If the officer demands a field sobriety test, simply remind him that it is voluntary and you do not consent. Explain that you would like to speak with an attorney before committing to any sort of test.

What to Do if Pulled Over

If you are pulled over for any reason, know the officer cannot arrest you just because he suspects impaired driving. He must have probable cause. That is usually confirmed through the officer's interaction with you. Do you smell like marijuana? Is there any marijuana or paraphernalia visible in your vehicle? Is your behavior erratic, slow, sluggish, or otherwise indicative of drug use?

If at all possible, do not drive while under the influence of marijuana. However, if you do happen to drive, experts suggest waiting at least three hours after consuming THC before driving.  However, everyone metabolizes THC differently. While certainly not foolproof, this is a good general guideline to follow if you absolutely must drive and there is no other option (i.e. genuine emergency). Moreover, be sensible. Do not smoke in your vehicle - the smell is a dead giveaway that provides an officer with probable cause. Do not keep marijuana in your vehicle. This too can lead to an arrest because it gives the officer a reasonable suspicion that you may be under the influence. Finally, do not wear clothing that smells like marijuana and use eye drops to reduce redness.

As soon as possible, contact a skilled Spokane DUI lawyer who can guide you through the process and ensure the best outcome. Do not go to court alone.

About the Author

Russell West

Russell West from West Law Office, located in Spokane, Washington represents clients in areas of criminal traffic, misdemeanors, and personal injury. DUI’s, Reckless Driving, Negligent driving, Hit and Run, and Driving with Suspended license are the majority of criminal traffic violations. Drug Charges, Theft, and Domestic Violence account for most of the other criminal cases Russell handles.


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West Law Office - Russell West Attorney

Spokane Attorney Russell West practice areas include: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury, Motorcycle Accidents, Slip and Falls, DUIs, DOL Hearings, Criminal Traffic, Expungement/Vacating Records, and Insurance Bad Faith

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