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Is there a legal limit for drugs in a driving under the influence of drugs case in Colorado?
Thu, 19 April, 2012
In short, the answer is “no”. At least for now. Colorado has proposed establishing a legal limit for THC in the past, but it was not enacted into law. Recently, the Colorado State Senate has proposed a new Bill that would set the standard at 5 ng/ml of active THC in blood. As the law stands today, any amount of drugs found in your system could lead to a “driving under the influence of drugs” charge in Colorado. Unlike driving under the influence of alcohol charges, under Colorado law, the statute for driving under the influence of drugs does not specify any legal limits for any drugs.
For drunk driving charges in Colorado, the legal limit for persons 21 years of age and older is a presumptive amount of .05 BAC. A blood alcohol content of greater than .05 is a presumptive driving while ability impaired, or DWAI. If a person’s BAC is a .08 or greater they could be facing a higher charge of Driving Under the Influence, or a DUI. If a person’s BAC is a .08 or greater within two hours of driving they may face an additional charge or Driving with excessive alcohol content. This is commonly written on a DUI ticket as DEAC, or D.E.A.C. In cases where the chemical testing method is a blood draw, often times police officers will charge a person with DEAC even though they have not seen the results of the blood test.
Drugs are very different than alcohol under Colorado DUI laws as they do not have a presumptive legal limit. Whether a person has taken prescription drugs or illegal drugs they could face a DUID charge if the District Attorney can prove that the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by the drugs.
For more insight on how the law is written, we look at Colorado Revised Statutes 42-2-1301. “‘Driving under the influence’ means driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”
Driving while ability impaired has a similar, albeit lower, standard. “‘Driving while ability impaired’ means driving a motor vehicle or vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs, that affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the operation of a vehicle.”
The statute at no point indicates a presumptive limit for marijuana or any other substances other than alcohol in a person’s blood. This means that the prosecution has the burden to prove that a person was “under the influence” or their ability to drive was “impaired” as described above independent of the levels of THC or other drugs in their system.
Proposals establishing a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana/THC have been shot down in the past by Colorado lawmakers. However, the Colorado Senate committee recently voted to endorse a proposal that would set a legal limit for active THC at 5 nanograms thereby setting “a scientific standard” for deciding whether drivers are impaired by marijuana. You can view the full content of the prosed bill here:
A portion of the bill reads,”In any prosecution for a driving under the influence (DUI), driving while ability impaired (DWAI), vehicular assault, or vehicular homicide,if at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, or within two hours thereafter, the defendant’s blood, urine, or saliva contains any amount of a schedule I controlled substance, except for tetrahydrocannabinols; a schedule II controlled substance; salvia divinorum; or synthetic cannabinoids, or the defendant’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter in whole blood, such fact gives rise to the permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of drugs. The bill expands the existing definition of “DUI per se” to include driving when the driver’s blood, urine, or saliva contains any amount of a schedule I controlled substance, except for tetrahydrocannabinols; salvia divinorum; or synthetic cannabinoids, and driving when the defendant’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter in whole blood.” (See Senate Bill 17, linked above)
Some states that allow medical marijuana (MMJ) have set limits for active THC for driving. For example, Nevada and Ohio have a limit of 2 nanograms of THC per milliliter for driving, while Pennsylvania has a 1-nanogram limit. Several other States, including Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and Utah have zero-tolerance policies for operating a motor vehicle with the presence of any illegal substance in a person’s system.
Stay tuned for further developments in Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and marijuana laws in Colorado. If you would like to speak to a Colorado Springs DUI marijuana lawyer, call (719) 227-0022 for a free consultation.