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Alcohol DUI and Marijuana DUI… What’s the difference?

By October 26, 2018Criminal Law, DUI / DWAI

The DUI statute in Colorado defines driving under the influence as follows:

“. . . 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.” C.R.S. 42-4-1301(1)(f) (2017).

Being “under the influence” while operating a vehicle means that a driver has become impaired by either alcohol or drug use.  However, a DUI charge from alcohol is not the same as a DUI charge from drug use, nor do they have the same consequences.


Marijuana and Driving Laws in Colorado

Colorado law mandates any driver who has five nanograms or more of active THC in their blood may be arrested and charged with a DUI.

How do police officers test for THC? 

Typically, a police officer first looks at whether or not the driver seems to be under the influence.  If the officer believes the impairment is more than an alcohol related DUI, then he will call a DRE, Drug Recognition Expert, to the scene.  If the DRE finds enough evidence of drug impairment, the driver will be charged with impaired driving, or a DUI.  That aside, the marijuana test that can be utilized during a sobriety stop is not currently being used by police in the state of Colorado.  If a police officer believes that you’re driving under the influence, you’ll may be asked to take a blood test.  If you refuse, you’ll be considered a high-risk driver.

If I have a medical marijuana card, can I still be arrested?

 The answer is, yes.  Having a medical card doesn’t mean anything when it comes to driving under the influence.

What if there are children in the vehicle when I get a DUI?

If children are present in the vehicle when facing a DUI, you may also face an additional charge of child abuse.

Am I allowed to have marijuana in the car?

In Colorado, you are not allowed to have an opened bottle of alcohol placed outside of the trunk area in a car.  This same “open container” law applies to marijuana as well.

What are the penalties for a marijuana DUI?

The severity of the penalties you may face for a marijuana DUI depends on the number of times you’ve been charged, as well as your age.  If you’re under the age of 21, a first offense will result in a three-month license suspension, a fine up to $100, and a maximum of 24 hours of community service.  A second offense will result in a six-month license suspension and a third offense will result in a one-year license suspension.  If you’re older than 21, the first offense will result in a maximum nine-month license suspension, jail time anywhere from five days to one year, and a fine between $600 and $1,000, and/or a 48 to 96 hours of community service.  A second offense will result in a one-year license suspension, jail time anywhere from ten days and one year, a fine between $600 and $1,500, and/or 48 to 120 hours of community service.  A third offense will result in a license suspension up to two years, jail time anywhere from 60 days to a year, a fine between $600 and $1,500, and/or 48 to 120 hours of community service.


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