With marijuana laws changing in recent years, you may have a lot of questions about its effects on DUIs and DWAIs. The following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). For specific information regarding your case, please do not hesitate to call the criminal defense attorneys at The Gasper Law Group!
Colorado Frequently Asked DUID Questions
- What is a DUID?
- What is the difference between a DUI and a DWAI? What about a DUID and a DWAID?
- How much weed can I have in my system while driving?
- How many points is a DUI in Colorado? What about DUID?
- How do drugs affect my ability to drive?
- What happens when I am pulled over with weed?
- How is the amount of marijuana tested in my system?
- Are there breathalyzers for weed?
- Is there an open container law with weed in Colorado?
- Can someone else have weed in the car as long as they’re not driving?
- Can I refuse a roadside sobriety test?
- Can I refuse a blood test or urine test?
- What are the penalties for DUI? What about driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)?
- Will I go to jail for a DUID?
- Will I lose my license for a DUID?
- What is a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)?
- If I use weed on a regular basis, will there be traces of it in my system?
- Is it still a DUID if it’s medicinal marijuana in my system?
- Is it illegal to drive on prescription drugs?
- What should I do first if I am charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)?
- What is the penalty for my first DUID?
- What happens if this is my second or third DUID?
- Are there different penalties for driving under the influence of drugs vs. driving under the influence of alcohol?
- Can I seal or expunge a DUID conviction in Colorado?
- Why do I need the help of an attorney for my DUID case?
1. What is a DUID?
DUID means driving under the influence of drugs. As such, any detectable amount of drugs in a driver’s system may lead to a conviction that shows up on your legal record. Under Colorado Law, a DUID is exactly the same as a DUI in terms of penalties, the only difference being that it involves drugs instead of alcohol.
2. What is the difference between a DUI and a DWAI? What about a DUID and a DWAID?
The difference between a DWAI and a DUI is that in order for the prosecutor to convict you of the latter, they have to prove you were driving or in actual physical control of a car while substantially incapable of safely driving due to the consumption of alcohol.
Meanwhile, a DWAI means driving while ability impaired and is considered a lesser offense in Colorado. For the prosecutor to prevail and obtain a DWAI conviction, they only need to prove that you were affected to the slightest degree by the consumption of alcohol.
Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) and driving while ability impaired by drugs (DWAID) work exactly the same as their alcohol counterparts. Again, a DWAID is a lesser offense than a DUID because the prosecutor only has to prove that you were affected to the slightest degree by drugs.
3. How much weed can I have in my system while driving?
Put simply, you cannot have any legal amount of marijuana in your system that impairs you or affects you to the slightest degree when driving.
In terms of the jury instruction, though, you cannot have more than five nanograms per milliliter of THC (the main active ingredient of marijuana) in your system while driving. If you are over that point, the jury will be told by your judge that they may presume that you are under the influence of drugs.
With that said, there’s not a very clear consensus regarding how much five nanograms per milliliter of THC (or any amount of marijuana for that matter) will affect a driver, and it will vary from person to person. For example, somebody who doesn’t use marijuana very often could be impaired with less than five nanograms of THC in their system, whereas someone who is a heavy recreational user or medical user could be just fine with much more THC in their system.
That’s why it’s important to work with a legal professional who can come up with your best defense.
4. How many points is a DUI in Colorado? What about DUID?
A DUI or DUID is 12 points against your license. Although there are differences in points allowances and consequences when it comes to age and whether or not you are a professional driver, 12 points is enough to suspend the license of any driver of any age.
5. How do drugs affect my ability to drive?
Like alcohol, marijuana can potentially impair your judgment, impede your motor coordination, and slow your reaction time.
However, the exact effect of marijuana on your driving is a really controversial subject. This is because certain amounts of marijuana affect people differently. For example, two people with the same amount of THC in their blood might act drastically different depending on a variety of factors. Level of impairment when it comes to driving can be interpreted subjectively.
Play it safe when you’re out in public with marijuana in your system. It is so much less expensive to get a ride from one of the many ridesharing companies available than to hire an attorney for a DUI/DUID.
6. What happens when I am pulled over with weed?
As with DUIs involving alcohol, unusual driving behavior may have triggered the drug stop. However, some people are pulled over just for having a taillight out or a problem with their registration.
Once stopped, the officer tends to focus a lot of their attention on whether anything present might be a result of marijuana use, such as:
- Green film on the tongue
- Impediments of speech like slurring
- Redness of the eyes
- Lack of coordination
They’ll also make note of anything they can see as they stand outside your vehicle, such as:
- Pipes, vapes, joints, cigarette rolling papers, or anything else visible in the car that might point to marijuana use
- Shredded leafy debris
- A lingering odor of marijuana
If the officer or drug recognition expert (DRE) sees any of these indicators, or if you’ve admitted that you’ve been using marijuana, he or she will likely pull you out of the car to do some roadside maneuvers. A roadside sobriety test is absolutely voluntary; nobody is required to do the maneuvers, and you cannot be penalized for not doing them.
The officer or DRE will then make a determination on whether or not he or she has probable cause to arrest you. At that point, if the officer requires you to do a blood test or urine test, then you do have the choice to do so or not. However, there are civil penalties that result from refusal to submit to a test such as the loss of a license for a year. Also, the judge will allow the prosecutor to hold your refusal to test against you at trial, for example, by allowing the prosecutor to argue to the jury that only a guilty person would refuse to test.
9. Is there an open container law with weed in Colorado?
Open container of marijuana mirrors an open container of alcohol. You’re not allowed to drive with an open container of marijuana in the entire passenger area of the vehicle, even if you are taking it home from the dispensary.
What is considered “open container” with weed? Examples include:
- Any receptacle for marijuana that is not sealed up professionally by a dispensary
- Any receptacle that was once sealed but is now broken
- Any open baggie, tupperware, etc.
- Any evidence that the contents have been removed
- Any evidence that you’ve consumed the marijuana in the car, such as shredded leafy debris
However, there are exceptions:
- If you are in a motorhome, you can keep it in your living quarters
- If you have an open trunk, you can keep it in the open area behind the last seat
These laws are still new and can be left up to interpretation. Therefore, just play it safe and try to keep all marijuana receptacles in the trunk of your car when transporting it from one place to the next.
10. Can someone else have weed in the car as long as they’re not driving?
No, it’s still a traffic infraction to have an open container of marijuana or alcohol in the car, even if you’re not the driver.
12. Can I refuse a blood test or urine test?
You certainly can, but if you refuse, that triggers an automatic license revocation for one year.
As a Colorado resident, there is a way to get your license back after two months without driving, but it would involve enrolling in classes, installing an interlock in your car for two years, obtaining SR-22 insurance, and a number of other hoops to jump through.
13. What are the penalties for DUI? What about driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)?
The consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol are the same as the consequences of driving under the influence of drugs.
On a first defense, you can be punished with:
- Up to a year in the county jail
- 12 points against your license
- Community service
- Required attendance at classes or victim impact panels
14. Will I go to jail for a DUID?
Unlike alcohol, there is no level of THC or marijuana in your system where jail becomes a mandatory requirement on a first offense. However, you certainly can go to jail for a DUID if the judge feels your level of impairment merits it. (For example, if you had enough THC or marijuana in your system that the prosecutor or judge felt that you were under the influence to the same degree as someone with a very high BAC, the court might impose jail.) In most cases, though, it’s unlikely that you would go to jail for a first offense DUID.
15. Will I lose my license for a DUID?
Yes, you can lose your license with a DUID in one of three ways:
- Refusing to take the blood or urine test
- Being convicted of a DUID which triggers its own automatic revocation
- Too many points on your record (a DUID carries 12 points which is too many)
At the time of writing this, those three suspensions or revocations run concurrent. In other words, if you’ve lost your license to any one of those three ways, you would not be further penalized.
For instance, if you refused a blood test and you lost your license because of that, you would not be further penalized through the DMV by a DUID conviction at the end of your case.
16. What is a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)?
A drug recognition expert is a law enforcement officer who has engaged in more education, testing, and licensure than the average patrol officer or even DUI Officer. They are specialized in looking for the signs of drug use impairment.
For instance, they’ve been trained to differentiate between drugs and are required to keep a log of which drugs they thought someone had been under the influence of at the time of the stop, and whether or not that was confirmed later by a blood test.
17. If I use weed on a regular basis, will there be traces of it in my system?
Yes, absolutely. If you use marijuana on a regular basis, you will have traces of THC in your system. Even if you haven’t been using recently or don’t feel the effects of the marijuana, THC can still show up in blood test results.
19. Is it illegal to drive on prescription drugs?
Yes, it’s still a DUID if you’re influenced or impaired by the consumption of prescription medications. However, if your doctor or pharmacist didn’t warn you of the potential effects of the medication prescribed to you, you need to talk to an attorney about potential defenses you may have.
20. What should I do first if I am charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)?
Stop panicking and contact an attorney.
If you’ve refused the test, you may only have seven days to request a hearing at the DMV, so try to call a criminal defense attorney within this time. However, we strongly recommend you call them earlier, i.e. as soon as possible following a DUID charge.
21. What is the penalty for my first DUID?
If you’re convicted of a DUID and it’s a first offense, your likely penalties are:
- Community service classes
- Monitored sobriety
- Required abstinence from alcohol and marijuana
- Possible jail time
22. What happens if this is my second or third DUID?
The penalties are exactly the same as a first DUI/DUID. However, for a second or any subsequent offenses in Colorado, jail is a mandatory component of any sentence, as is supervised probation and at least one year of suspended license.
24. Can I seal or expunge a DUID conviction in Colorado?
No, Colorado does not allow you to seal or expunge a DUI, a DWAI, a DUID, or a DWAID.
Even if you have successfully completed a deferred sentence, Colorado does not allow you to seal any case in which you have pled guilty to DUI, DWAI, DUID, or DWAID.
25. Why do I need the help of an attorney for my DUID case?
DUIs can have far reaching consequences. They affect not only your ability to drive but also professional licensure in the future. They are “priorable” which means that a mistake that you make on your first one could really make a huge difference down the road if you ever get a second or third offense resulting in harsher penalties.
You need the help of an attorney because they are highly trained, have abundant experience, a keen eye for evidence, and know the defense strategies that position you to receive a reduction of charges or full dismissal at court.
One of the things that strikes us when people handle their own cases is that they might walk out of the courthouse with a set of instructions but no idea where to even begin in accomplishing all of them. You need an attorney who can guide you through every step of the process, offering support all along the way.
We tell people all the time that money spent on an attorney is like money spent on insurance. You are helping to ensure that whatever outcome is reached in court is the correct outcome given all of the different factors to consider. You are helping to ensure peace of mind because these cases can six months or more to resolve, which is a lot of time to be dealing with the anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen next.
Finally, you are helping to ensure the future quality of your life when you hire an attorney who will stand next to you in court and fight diligently for your rights.