What Happens If You Get a Marijuana DUI in Washington State or Oregon?
In either of those states, you’re guaranteed to spend at least a little time in jail if you get a marijuana DUI arrest. If you are convicted, the cost of your car insurance can also go up dramatically as you may receive a high-risk driver designation due to the conviction. You might even lose your coverage altogether.
To put it another way, the penalties for being convicted of driving under the influence of cannabis are exactly the same as what you’ll undergo if convicted of an alcohol DUI.
Both states were among the first to legalize recreational marijuana use. But the financial and emotional cost of driving while impaired by the substance, whether it’s smoked, vaped, or consumed in edibles, is steep.
In Washington, that means the following penalty range, based on the number of offenses:
- 24 hours to as many as 364 days in jail
- Fines of at least $990.50 and as much as $5,000
- At least 90 days’ license suspension
- A probationary period of two to five years
In Oregon, you’ll end up with an initial fine of $1,000. That amount goes up to as much as $10,000 and possible prison time for subsequent convictions.
That doesn’t even include the high cost of retaining a lawyer, arranging transportation after a license suspension, the higher insurance rates, and possibly even losing your job for time missed.
In Oregon, the offense is called a DUII, which stands for driving under the influence of intoxicants.
What Does it Mean to be ‘Under the Influence’?
It means exactly the same thing, whether the cause is alcohol, cannabis, or other legal or illegal substances. It means that your ability to safely drive is hampered from a physical and/or mental standpoint. As a result, you’re judged a danger to yourself and others while behind the wheel on public roads.
How is DUI Determined in Washington and Oregon?
In both states, the police officer might suspect marijuana impairment after stopping the driver for any violation, including speeding, reckless driving, lights out, or any other valid reason.
Once stopped, the motorist might come under suspicion of driving under the influence if the officer smells cannabis or sees evidence of it in plain sight in the vehicle or in the conduct or appearance of the driver.
In Oregon, special law enforcement personnel can be called to the scene by the police officer who made the stop. These drug recognition experts, or DRE, have been specially trained in recognizing the signs of marijuana intoxication. They can make the call after asking the driver to take a 12-step roadside test, and these results will likely hold up in court.
In Washington State, a blood test that reveals at least 5 nanograms of marijuana can result in a conviction. This might seem unfair to heavy consumers of this legal product since their blood tests can easily show that much THC in their systems even when they’re not currently impaired.
Also, in Washington, any driver under the age of 21 who shows any trace of marijuana in their system can be convicted of a marijuana DUI.
What Should a Driver Do if Suspected of Marijuana DUI?
You’re under no legal obligation to allow officers to search your car or your person without a warrant. However, no warrant is needed if marijuana or paraphernalia are in plain sight of the police officer.
You have the right to refuse roadside sobriety tests, but the refusal can be used against you in a court of law. Refusing a Breathalyzer or blood test is more serious in both states and comes with license suspensions and other serious penalties. If you are convicted, you may need SR-22 insurance in order to get your license reinstated.
One critical step is to contact a lawyer immediately. Your next call should be to your insurance agent. If convicted of a marijuana DUI or DUII, you won’t be able to hide it from your insurer, so you might as well get ahead of the situation. Your agent will be able to discuss the cost and other car insurance issues if you’re convicted.
While a marijuana DUI is exactly as serious as an alcohol-related violation of the same nature, you can repair your driving record over time and your car insurance rates will eventually reduce. Just take things a day at a time.
Don’t put yourself in a position to be suspected of such an offense. Researchers have found that it’s generally safe to drive some four-and-a-half hours after smoking marijuana. But when ingesting edibles, the impairing effect can last as long as 12 hours.
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Call your Vern Fonk independent insurance agent at (800) 455-8276. You can also visit an agent at your nearby Vern Fonk Insurance office location in Washington or Oregon or get a quick car insurance quote online.
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