Throughout all of North Carolina, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of any impairing substances. These substances include: alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medication, and marijuana. Many states in the USA are passing laws that legalize marijuana, either for recreational or medical use, or passing laws that decriminalize marijuana possession. With the number of marijuana users growing the possibility of DWI related arrests increases.
So the simple question is..can you be charged with DWI/DUI in North Carolina if you’ve been using marijuana? The short answer is yes, it is not legal in North Carolina and it qualifies as an impairing substance.
Driving with marijuana increases your chances of both being charged with possession and being investigated for a DWI/DUI if the officer believes you have recently used marijuana or related substances.
Currently, Use Equals Impairment
In North Carolina most patrol officers that charge DWI receive little if any training on drug (non-alcohol) impaired driving. While many officers are not highly trained to detect drug impairment in a individual, the number of non-alcohol DWI charges continues to rise across the state.
With that said, how exactly does an officer prove a suspected driver is impaired by marijuana? Patrol officers and investigators may point to any of the following indicators:
- The suspect’s vehicle smelled like marijuana
- A smoking device for marijuana or marijuana itself was found in the vehicle.
- The suspect admitted he/she had consumed marijuana recently
- The suspect had a greenish tinge on his/her tongue
Unfortunately, while these “facts” might be evidence of marijuana use, they certainly do not address the issue of whether the suspect was impaired by marijuana/THC at the time of being pulled over by a patrol officer. Current scientific methods cannot elucidate the time of use of illegal substances.
The majority of patrol officers have received basic training and instruction for conducting Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in alcohol related DWI/DUI investigations. Officers receive instruction and training on the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test as a primary use test. This is a test used to detect primarily alcohol impairment and certain other types of drug impairment, however a person will not exhibit Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus due to marijuana use/impairment thus it is not taken as a valid test of marijuana impairment
How Do We Test For An Impairing Substance
Most patrol officers have limited training in investigating impairment by substances other than alcohol. Due to this limited training, the primary question of many drug related DWI/DUI investigations is: was the suspect using an impairing substance at the time?
Here in North Carolina, there are no current impairment laws for marijuana/THC as there is for blood alcohol impairment. Blood alcohol impairment is defined as .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. Thus under current laws, a specific amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or tetrahydroncannabinolic acid (THCA) is not relevant to a DWI charge based on marijuana impairment.
Unlike alcohol, we currently do not have a field test available for marijuana to test if an individual is impaired while driving. Current scientific research cannot show if a substance was consumed or influencing an individual at a specific date and time based on a blood test. Many pharmaceutical/chemical compounds related to illegal substances or prescription medications/drugs can remain in a person’s system for 30 days or longer in a detectable manner.
Marijuana/THC can be found in users for up to 30 days(and even more). What this means for you is if a patrol officer suspects you are driving impaired and requests or compels a blood test, the results of the blood test would more than likely confirm marijuana use even though it would not confirm when the individual was impaired.
You Have Been Charged With A DWI In Durham, NC. Do You Need A Lawyer?
Being charged with a DWI in Durham NC is a serious offense and hiring a lawyer is an incredibly important decision. Given today’s political environment, if you are accused of DWI it is imperative that you find an attorney with the experience to test the State’s case and ensure an acceptable outcome is reached. No other charge in NC is as heavily scrutinized as a DWI in NC and having this on your record can cause serious harm to your official reputation. All charges such as a DWI are public record in NC unless expunged by the courts. This can cause extreme harm to your current and future employment and being represented by experienced DWI attorneys like the Law Office of Matthew Charles Suczynski can make a significant difference in your outcome with the state.
Why Should I Choose the Law Office of Matthew Charles Suczynski
Over the years Matthew has defended hundreds of Driving While Impaired cases both in District and Superior Courts throughout the state. As such, Matthew has the skill set and experience necessary to handle your DWI case. Give the Law Office of Matthew Charles Suczynski, PLLC a call today to discuss your case at (919) 619-3242 or visit our DWI page for more information