Musician Bob Marley said, “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.” However, when you drive under the influence of marijuana, it may reveal excessive legal problems for you.
Some people believe that because marijuana is now legal in many states, you can partake of it anywhere in that state. This is not the case. Think of it this way: alcohol is also legal in every state, but you still cannot drive under its influence. So what do you do if you are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana?
How marijuana affects the human body and brain
Those who use marijuana frequently tout its relaxation and pleasurable effects. There are reasons for the feeling obtained when smoking, eating or brewing marijuana. It affects the same areas of the brain as alcohol, heroin and cocaine.
The affect is achieved because of a chemical in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Smoking releases the THC. In the 1970s, the THC content in marijuana was about one percent. Today, it’s approximately 15 percent.
Most people who use marijuana smoke it. When smoked, it stimulates the brain cells to release a chemical called dopamine and the feeling of euphoria happens immediately. If it is eaten or brewed, the effect takes a little longer.
Users report feeling more relaxed when smoking marijuana. Some also feel that their key senses are more pronounced. There is also the feeling of increased appetite, which also makes marijuana beneficial to cancer patients or people who are suffering from other illnesses where appetite and weight loss is a factor.
Side effects might include short term memory loss, feelings of paranoia, and difficulty concentrating or performing tasks that require coordination. There can also be respiratory problems, such as increased coughing and acute lung illnesses like bronchitis. The effects are determined by how much marijuana is consumed, the method, how often, and the strength of the drug consumed.
While it is not considered addictive, some long term users do experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability and sleeplessness. Approximately 30 percent of users undergo these conditions.
According to experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, if started in teen years, marijuana can decrease the number of neurons in the brain. Over the long term, it can slow reaction times, among other impairments. This can be significant if you operate a motor vehicle under its influence.
Why Being Arrested for Driving under the Influence of Marijuana is a Serious Offense
In New Jersey, driving under the influence of drugs or DUID, is treated the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. As a result, you can and will be arrested. It’s important to note that marijuana can stay in your body and blood stream for up to 30 days.
Loss of your license, even for a little while, may have a serious effect on your lifestyle and livelihood. The loss of your freedom will cost you much more.
The consequences of driving under the influence of marijuana
First time offenses usually carry a fine of $200-$400 dollars. Depending on the circumstances, you could even receive a sentence of up to 30 days in jail. Other penalties may include the loss of your license for a year.
Subsequent violations will earn much stronger punishments. Then you will face a fine of $500-$1,000. Additionally, you might be sentenced to 90 days in jail as well as the requirement to perform 30 days of community service. Also, your license may be suspended for two years.
If you garner three or more offenses, the courts will really come after you. Remember, in all of this, they are actually trying to teach you a lesson and continuing to rack up offenses shows you are not learning them. Therefore, you might lose your license for 10 years and be required to spend six months behind bars.
Steps to take if you are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana
Get all the facts. You need to know things like whether your offense met the legal definition of driving under the influence. Basically, this term is used to describe someone who is unable to drive with the same attentiveness and concern as a sober person in equal circumstances. Your ability to operate a motor vehicle is the issue in question. The legal definition is what will be addressed in court.
Understand the evidence that is being collected. You may be given a urine test or blood test, but this is not a definitive measure of whether you were actually driving under the influence. Also, neither is mandatory. You cannot be forced to submit to these tests without a warrant and you cannot face further punishment for refusal prior to a warrant. Different substances, like marijuana, can stay in your system long after any of its effects have worn off.
It typically starts with a breath test or BAC. While the legal limit is .08 percent, some law enforcement officials will begin a drug investigation at .05 percent.
Additionally, some police departments in New Jersey are now using what is called Drug Recognition Evaluators. This consists mainly of what the officer observes about you during the arrest. For example, he or she will take note of things like the size of your pupils, how fast your heart is beating or the presence of needle marks. These observations will form the basis for probable cause in arresting you as well as evidence against you in court.
Find out as much as you can about the court system in your state. It’s important to realize that consequences can differ from state to state and even courtroom to courtroom. Each judge can use his or her own discretion. There are guidelines which set maximum penalties but yours could be more or less severe depending on the judge.
Hire a qualified attorney who understands these cases. Of course, your best option is not getting behind the wheel of a vehicle if you have been using marijuana in the first place. However, if you are ever in this situation, you should contact attorney Marc A. Futterweit immediately. At the Law offices of Marc A. Futterweit, they will help you understand your rights and defend you against these charges. They understand the workings of traffic court in New Jersey so you can meet with them to discuss the circumstances regarding your violation and know your options.