Is a Marijuana DWI Considered as Serious as an Alcohol-Related One?
In popular culture, marijuana usage is often portrayed in a more casual light than taking hard drugs or drinking alcohol. Because of this, when people think of incidents involving someone driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI), the first thing to come to mind is usually drunk driving. In addition, the way marijuana use is portrayed also impacts how marijuana DWIs are viewed. In many cases, a marijuana DWI is viewed as less serious than a DWI involving a drunk driver. However, the way pop culture views marijuana use is not the same as the way the law treats it, which can be a rude awakening for anyone facing a marijuana DWI charge.
What Are the Penalties for Marijuana DWI in New Jersey?
The penalties for DWI are different depending on the state where the DWI takes place. In New Jersey, a marijuana DWI charge can carry a wide range of penalties:
- For first time offenders, the penalties can include a fine of up to $500, jail time of up to 30 days, and having their driver license suspended for up to a year.
- If a driver is facing a second marijuana DWI, their driver license can be suspended for up to two years, they can face up to 90 days in jail, they can be hit with a fine of up to $1000, and they may have to do 30 days of community service.
- A third marijuana DWI charge can result in a $1000 fine, six months in jail, and the driver having their driver license suspended for up to 10 years.
In addition to the penalties for marijuana DWI being different from state to state, the methods used to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana vary depending on the state. Many states do not have a legal limit for how much marijuana someone must have used to be charged with DWI. While the amount of THC in driver’s system can play a part in deciding if a driver is charged with and/or convicted of DWI, generally, the following factors are used to determine if a driver has been driving while under the influence of marijuana:
- Driving Poorly
- Slurring Speech
- Fails Field Sobriety Test
- Behaving Unusually
Another method law enforcement sometimes uses to determine if a driver has been driving while under the influence of marijuana is having the driver submit to a blood or urine test (which, along with breathalyzer tests, are known as chemical tests). However, in New Jersey, chemical tests aren’t as easy to authorize for drivers suspected of using marijuana as they are for drivers suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. New Jersey has a law known as implied consent, which provides the police with probable cause to require a driver who was lawfully arrested for DWI or DUI to take a chemical test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
While implied consent makes it easier to give chemical tests to drivers suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, the law doesn’t apply to drivers suspected of driving while under the influence of marijuana. This means marijuana DWI suspects are generally able to refuse to take chemical tests without penalty.
Marijuana DWI Versus Alcohol DWI
In New Jersey, the penalties for marijuana DWI are harsh. However, the Garden State’s penalties for alcohol DWI/DUI are even more severe:
- For a driver who is charged with drunk driving for the first time, the penalties are losing their driver license for three months to a year, spending 12 to 48 hours in the Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center (IDRC), up to 30 days in jail, up to $500 in fines, a $1000 a year surcharge for three years, a $230 IDRC fee, a $100 Drunk Driving Fund assessment, a $75 Safe Neighborhood Services Fund assessment, and a $100 Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund assessment. In addition, if the driver had a BAC of .15 percent or more, an ignition interlock device will be installed on their vehicle while their license is suspended, and the device will remain installed up to a year after they get their license back.
- The penalties for a second alcohol DUI are losing driver license for two years, 30 days of community service, up to 90 days in jail, serving up to 48 hours in the IDRC, a fine of up to $1000, a $280 IDRC fee, a $1000 per year surcharge for three years, a $75 Safe Neighborhood Services Fund assessment, a $100 Drunk Driving Fund assessment, a $100 Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund assessment. In addition, an ignition interlock device will be installed on the driver’s vehicle during their license suspension and up to three years after their license is restored.
- If a driver is charged with a third alcohol DUI/DWI, the penalties are loss of license for 10 years, serving 180 days in jail, serving up to 48 hours in IDRC, a $1000 fine, a $1500 a year surcharge for three years, a $75 Safe Neighborhood Services Fund assessment, a $100 Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund assessment, a $100 Drunk Driving Fund assessment, and a $280 IDRC fee.
Facing a Marijuana DWI? Let Us Help!
If you have been arrested for a marijuana DWI, don’t make any decisions until you have talked to an experienced criminal defense attorney. The decisions you make regarding a DWI charge can be life-changing and permanent, so before you decide, you need to know and fully understand your rights and the best options available to you. Don’t let one bad choice ruin your life.
At Brickfield & Donahue, our criminal defense attorneys have over 55 years of combined legal experience and a proven track record of helping clients overcome their legal problems and regain control of their lives. Our legal team understands every aspect of the criminal defense process, so whether you have never committed a crime in your life or have a lengthy criminal history, we can help you.
To schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys, call us at (201) 574-7919 or leave your information using our online contact formand we’ll get back to you right away.