Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

When a person operates a motor vehicle in New York while allegedly under the influence of a controlled substance or cannabis (marijuana), that individual can be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (DWAID) under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192(4). In certain cases, alleged offenders may be accused of driving while ability impaired by drugs or marijuana, or of a mix of alcohol and drugs or marijuana.

An arrest for allegedly driving under the influence of drugs or marijuana carries penalties that are  steeper than those associated with alcohol-related Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).  DWAID convictions result in punishments that are more comparable with traditional driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses.

Lawyer for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Arrests in Queens, NY

Were you arrested for a drugged driving offense in New York City because you were allegedly under the influence of cannabis? It will be critical for you to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Contact Law Office today.

Queens criminal defense attorney Rochelle S. Berliner represents individuals charged with all kinds of DWI crimes in communities throughout Queens County, Kings County, New York County, and Bronx County. You can have her provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call Law Office to schedule a free initial consultation.

Overview of Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Crimes in New York

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Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Charges in New York City

An alleged offender can be charged with DWAID under New York Vehicle & Traffic Law § 1192(4) if that person operates a motor vehicle while his or her ability to operate such a motor vehicle is impaired by the use of a drug or cannabis or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug or cannabis. Unlike alcohol-related DWI offenses in which certain thresholds are established for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits, a person can be charged with DWAID if he or she tests positive for any amount of marijuana.

The main psychoactive constituent in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has an extremely long detection period in humans, meaning that a person might test positive for marijuana despite having actually last smoked several days or even weeks before the test. Thus, many alleged offenders can be charged with DWAID when the THC in the cannabis they consumed was no longer active at the times they were driving.

If police suspect a person of DWI or exhibiting symptoms of intoxication but chemical tests do not reveal a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that violates state law, the arresting officer will often ask the accused to submit to urine testing to determine the presence of cannabis or controlled substances in the system.  Since THC remains in the body for up to a month, a positive THC urine test will not conclusively demonstrate that the driver was actually impaired.  If the driver refuses the urine test, he or she will then face a potential one-year license revocation from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

At the precinct, the arresting officer may also summon a drug recognition expert (DRE) for assistance. DREs are police officers who have been specifically trained to determine whether an alleged offender is under the influence of a controlled substance or marijuana, as well as what kind of illegal drug that person might have used.

New York is among several jurisdictions in the country that utilize DREs. When a DRE arrives at the scene of a possible DWAID violation, he or she will usually follow the same 12-step protocol evaluation:

  • Breath Alcohol Test;
  • Interview of the Arresting Officer;
  • Preliminary Examination and First Pulse;
  • Eye Examinations;
  • Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests;
  • Vital Signs and Second Pulse;
  • Dark Room Examinations;
  • Examination for Muscle Tone;
  • Check for Injection Sites and Third Pulse;
  • Subject’s Statements and Other Observations;
  • Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator; and
  • Toxicological Examination.

Among many problems with DRE evaluations, the primary concern in such cases is that DREs are required to discuss the alleged offender with the arresting officer before conducting any tests. As a result of this, examinations are rarely performed without a certain sense of confirmation bias which often serves only to support the beliefs of the arresting officer.

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Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Penalties in Queens

A standard alcohol-related DWAI conviction results in no more than 15 days in jail for a first offense, but DWAID violations are subject to much stiffer consequences. Under state law, a DWAID offense can result in sentences similar to a basic DWI offense.

Depending on how many times an alleged offender has been convicted of this crime, DWAID may result in the following sentences:

  • First Offense — Up to one year in jail, fine of at least $500 up to $1,000, and six-month driver’s license suspension;
  • Second Offense — Up to four years in prison, fine of at least $1,000 up to $5,000, and one-year driver’s license suspension;
  • Third or Subsequent Offense — Up to seven years in prison, fine of at least $2,000 up to $10,000, and one-year driver’s license suspension.

In addition to the possible penalties associated with a marijuana DUI offense, alleged offenders can also face separate charges relating to any cannabis possession.

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New York Resources for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Offenses

New York State Drug Recognition Expert Program — Visit this section of the state government’s website to learn more about its Drug Evaluation Classification (DEC) program. In addition to a listing of all DRE Officers in the state of New York, you can also find information about training classes. The website also has various forms and links, including a link to the main International Drug Evaluation & Classification Program website.

Empire State NORML — NORML is short for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a nonprofit organization committed to the legalization of marijuana. In addition to information about drugged driving, you can also learn more about cannabis penalties and medical marijuana laws in New York. The website also has recent news releases and action alerts.

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Law Office | Queens Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Defense Attorney

If you get arrested in New York City for an alleged marijuana-related DWAID offense, do not make any kind of statement to authorities without legal counsel. Law Office can review every aspect of your traffic stop and arrest to determine if any errors in the handling of tests or violations of your rights might lead to criminal charges possibly being reduced or dismissed.

Rochelle S. Berliner is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Queens who defends clients all over New York City, including the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and more. Call or complete an online contact form to have our attorney review your case and help you understand all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation

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