In Virginia, when a law enforcement officer stops your vehicle and believes that marijuana is impairing your ability to drive safely, you can be charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID).
Although Washington, D.C. and Maryland have decriminalized marijuana possession, in Virginia, possessing marijuana in any amount remains illegal, so you could face drug possession charges in addition to DUID if you have marijuana in your vehicle or on your person at the time of the traffic stop. These charges can mean additional jail time and fines if you are convicted, so you need an experienced Marijuana DUID defense attorney from S.L. England, PLLC, to fight for you.
Marijuana DUID Penalties
Virginia's Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) law covers alcohol-related and marijuana-related impaired driving. If you are convicted of Marijuana DUID, you face the same penalties as you would for driving under the influence of alcohol. These penalties increase for subsequent convictions. The look-back period in Virginia is 10 years.
A first offense marijuana DUID is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you face a mandatory minimum fine of $250.
If you are convicted of a second offense within five years, you face a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and 20 days in jail. You could serve additional jail time ranging from one month to one year.
A second offense conviction within five to ten years carries a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and 10 days in jail.
A third conviction within five years is a Class 6 felony. This charge carries a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 and 90 days in jail.
Fourth or subsequent convictions within 10 years have mandatory minimum fines of $1,000 and one-year imprisonment.
If law enforcement finds marijuana in your vehicle or on your person during the traffic stop, you could face additional penalties for marijuana possession. This is a misdemeanor. For a first offense, you could be sentenced to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
Medical Marijuana in Virginia
Unlike some other states that allow people with medical marijuana cards to grow their own marijuana plants or possess small amounts of cannabis for smoking, Virginia's medical marijuana law limits legal possession to products that contain cannabidiol (CBD) oil or THC-A oil, and only with a valid written certification from your doctor. Your doctor must state that these products may relieve your diagnosed disease or condition.
You should have your written certification with you any time you have your CBD oil or THC-A oil with you outside your home.
You can only obtain CBD oil or THC-A oil from one of Virginia's five licensed dispensaries located in Bristol, Portsmouth, Staunton, Manassas, and Richmond. These dispensaries can only sell a 90 day supply to each patient, which limits the amount you can legally have in your possession at any time.
These products may not contain more than five percent THC, which means that their use will not impair your driving. Possession of whole-leaf cannabis and other marijuana products remains illegal.
Defenses to Drug DUI in Virginia
The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for impaired driving is 0.08 percent, but marijuana does not have an equivalent threshold amount that determines impairment. Having marijuana in your system does not expressly prove that it impaired your ability to drive.
To be convicted of Marijuana DUID, the prosecution must prove to the judge or jury "beyond a reasonable doubt" that you were driving while impaired and marijuana caused the impairment.
No breath test exists to detect marijuana, so law enforcement must collect a blood or urine sample to prove you have marijuana in your system. Alcohol only remains in your bloodstream for a short time, depending on the amount consumed and your metabolism. Marijuana, however, can remain in your blood and urine for two days after use, or longer if you are a frequent user. Having marijuana in your blood or urine does not necessarily mean that it impaired your ability to drive safely at the time of the traffic stop. You may have used marijuana several days earlier.
Law enforcement must have a valid reason to stop your vehicle. Your attorney can challenge the basis of the traffic stop.
Your attorney can also challenge the collection method or the chain of custody of your blood or urine sample. Law enforcement and associated medical personnel must follow exact procedures or your sample could be contaminated.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Marijuana DUID Attorney
Marijuana DUID cases require blood and urine testing, which creates unique legal issues. Unlike alcohol, simply having marijuana in your system does not indicate impairment.
You need an experienced attorney from S.L. England, PLLC, who understands the stringent requirements for blood tests and who can effectively challenge the basis of the traffic stop, the chain of custody, or the sample collection and testing methods. Your marijuana DUID case is unique, and we will look at all the details to build the strongest defense for you. Call us today at (202) 572-1020 or contact us online.