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Maryland Marijuana DUI Lawyer
Marijuana DUIs fall under the violation of the Maryland Transportation §21-902 (d), the statute that prohibits operating a motor vehicle while impaired by controlled, dangerous substances. It is important to have an attorney who understands the laws and the science behind the DUI and drug DUI laws so they can be persuasive in presenting evidence that their client was not impaired to a judge or jury. Having a lawyer who has never handled a case like this puts a person at a significant disadvantage when planning a defense strategy.
Marijuana DUI Laws in Maryland
Very recently Maryland decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. That is possession under ten grams. Even though marijuana is decriminalized, it does not mean that driving under the influence of marijuana is acceptable. Being impaired by marijuana and operating a motor vehicle is still a violation of § 21-902 (d). Penalties for that are the same as when there is impairment by cocaine, heroin, or any other kinds of illegal drugs. Even though Maryland decriminalized the possession of marijuana, they have not decriminalized driving under the influence of the drug.
The maximum penalty for a first offense violation of § 21-902 (d) is same as an alcohol DUI that is one year of incarceration, $1,000 fine and 12 points on the person’s driver’s license.
Evidence: Marijuana vs Alcohol DUIs
There is a significant difference between marijuana and alcohol based cases. For alcohol impaired driving, there is a statute called DUI per se, the Maryland Transportation Article § 21-902(a)(2). The statute states it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a breath alcohol content measured by the test of breath of .08 percent BAC or higher.
If the state can prove a breath test of .08 percent BAC or higher and they can prove the individual was driving; they do not have to actually prove impairment. They do not have to show that the person was drunk or even buzzed. The breath test plus the driving is sufficient for a conviction of DUI per se.
There is no equivalent marijuana DUI per se statute. The state cannot show that because a person had a certain number of nanograms of THC in their blood stream; they were impaired.
If the authorities submit evidence of a blood test, they must bring in an expert witness to explain the blood test in the court, explain what the level of THC in someone’s blood means, and how that would affect impairment. There is a significant difference between DUI marijuana and DUI alcohol. Some of the states that fully legalized marijuana passed a marijuana DUI per se statute that prescribes a specific number of nanograms of THC that is allowable in a person’s blood stream before they are in violation. If the officials do not prove impairment based on the blood test, they have to use the blood test to corroborate impairment from other sources such as physical demeanor, words spoken, or something of that nature.
The blood tests are usually done by a phlebotomist at the police station or at a hospital. Some other jurisdictions may use urine but Colorado uses blood samples.
Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Good Indicators of Sobriety
The most important thing to know for any DUI case be it alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs or anything else is that sometimes the defendant is his or her own worst enemy in the case. An individual should not make admissions and should refuse to do field sobriety tests. Those tests are entirely voluntary and there are no penalties for refusing them. They are designed for a person to fail. Individuals should refuse to do those tests that are self-incriminating. For any kind of DUI offense, being very cautious about what kind of evidence an individual provides the police voluntarily is a good idea.
How a Marijuana DUI Lawyer Can Help
The way to approach a marijuana DUI case is to look at every possible aspect of the case. An attorney examines the stop to see if the officer can justify the stop as a legal traffic stop. There must be some articulable suspicion that some kind of traffic violation or offense took place for the officer to justify the stop.
The next thing an attorney investigates is the reason the officer asked the person to do the field sobriety test. Did the officer have a reason to believe there was some kind of impairment based on the initial contact?
Then the attorney reviews the person’s performance on the field sobriety test and any other potential indicators of impairment. Were the tests performed correctly? Did the officers grade them correctly? Did they do it in the standardized fashion prescribed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?
Finally, an attorney examines any kind of post arrest evidence gathered by the police including the DRE evaluation and chemical tests. If there is a place to create doubt or challenge the state’s evidence; the attorney uses that to build the defense.
These cases are more varied and interesting than some of the alcohol DUIs because the level of evidence is so different from agency to agency. Some agencies do not have any kind of DRE evaluation or the chemical test process is different and much harder to admit as evidence.