December 6, 2018 witnessed the enactment of Michigan Proposal 1. This law opened a lot of doors for medical marijuana advocates. Among other things, it allows individuals who are 21 years old and above to purchase, possess, and use marijuana as well as edibles mixed with marijuana. A 10-ounce limit is imposed per residence, and any quantity 2.5 ounces to 10 ounces possessed by an individual should be secured in a container.
Along with the passing of the law came several issues. One of these issues is the confusion about when is a person considered too high to drive. Although it has already been established that no one is authorized to drive under the influence of marijuana, many citizens were still left with a conundrum.
Marijuana and DUI: How High is High?
Under the Michigan Vehicle Code MCL 257.625(8), driving a vehicle with any amount of a controlled substance classified as Schedule 1 in their system is prohibited. Marijuana is part of Schedule 1.
The thing about marijuana is that the body process this differently than, let’s say, alcohol. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the intoxicating chemical component in marijuana that is responsible for that “high” feeling, can stay in the system from several days to weeks. The body can eliminate alcohol and other drugs from the system in just a few hours, but THC clings much longer. The “high” effect of marijuana may have long worn off, but the THC is still there.
This is where the problem lies. There isn’t a roadside marijuana test yet, and saliva swab can only show if marijuana is in the system and not how recent the consumption was. Now, if you scored positive in the saliva test, is it lawful then for you to be arrested and prosecuted mainly for having marijuana in your system while driving? How will one know that a driver is too stoned to drive? In Michigan, that is up to the police to decide.
Does Michigan Police Have Too Much Discretion?
Michigan implements a zero-tolerance policy for drivers caught operating under the influence of different narcotics. This includes marijuana, even if it has been already legalized. Unless you are a cardholder for medical marijuana use, you can go to jail simply for having trace amounts of THC in your system.
While some states have established a calculable level for marijuana, Michigan has not. If a driver gets pulled over for OWI suspicion, the police will do the standard field sobriety test. In the case of marijuana-related OWI, whether you will pass it or not is subject to the police’s prejudgments or impression.
If the police suspect that you have been using marijuana, they will try to get any evidence to arrest you. They will likewise require an oral swab or any chemical test be taken to prove that you are driving under the influence of marijuana. Although you can refuse the oral swab and field sobriety test, the police can still get a search warrant and get you tested anyway.
Penalties for Marijuana-Related OWI
The penalties vary from state to state. The severity of the penalty also depends on the number of times the offense was committed. Any or a combination of the following penalties may be enforced:
- Fines – the amount will vary, from a few hundred dollars (for first-time misdemeanor charges) to ten thousand dollars or more (for felony conviction)
- Jail or prison) time – up to one year for misdemeanor convictions and one year or more for a felony offense
- Community service – the number of hours will depend on the nature of your conviction
- Probation – from one to three years, probation requires you to submit to court conditions, including random drug and alcohol testing and regular meeting with a probationary officer and undergoing a substance abuse program
- Victim impact program participation
- Home confinement/house arrest
- Ignition interlock device use
- License suspension – for three months to several years, depending on the case. However, you may request for a “hardship” or “restricted” license to travel to places such as work and school while on the suspension period.
- Vehicle impoundment or forfeiture
- Drug and alcohol abuse programs
Consider Getting Legal Assistance
If you find yourself facing OWI charges for having a few nanograms of THC in your system, you need to act fast. If you get expert help in the soonest possible time, you might get the chance to have the charges against you dropped. An accomplished and dependable lawyer can build a strong defense and protect your constitutional rights in the middle of OWI charges. Call us right away so we can schedule a consultation and discuss your case.