Can I Be Charged With a Marijuana DUI in Boston?
In November 2016, voters in Massachusetts legalized marijuana. In 2022 possession of marijuana is now legal for those that are 21 years of age or older. However, it is illegal to smoke or ingest (edibles) marijuana, while driving a motor vehicle. G. L. c. 90, § 24.
For many marijuana users in MA, this is where the problem develops. Unlike driving under the influence of alcohol, where there is a statutory presumption of impairment (0.8% BAC or higher), there is no statutory presumption for marijuana impairment.
If you have been arrested for a marijuana DUI in Boston, MA, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you! At Parousis Law, we have years of experience helping clients just like you. Let us put our knowledge to work for you today by calling our office at (617) 838-2013.
How Can I Be Charged with a DUI for Marijuana if Weed Is Legal?
Even though the personal use of marijuana in MA is legal, a person can face DUI charges for Marijuana. A person can be charged with a marijuana DUI offense, for the following reasons:
- Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
- Possession of Cannabis While Operating a Vehicle
- Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Injury or Death
- Failure to Comply with Probation Order
What Is the Penalty for Being Convicted of a Marijuana DUI Offense?
If you look at Section 24 (1)(a)(1) of Massachusetts general code, operating a motor vehicle while being under the influence of any intoxicating liquor or drug, including marijuana, is against the law. The statutory limit of intoxication in Massachusetts is .08 percent, there is no specified limit for marijuana. Instead, operating a motor vehicle with any level of impairment is against the law.
Challenges facing the Commonwealth for testing Marijuana Impairment.
The major challenge facing the Commonwealth is that as opposed to drunk driving, which can be proven easily with a roadside breathalyzer test or even a blood alcohol test, there is no way to determine the concentration of marijuana in a person’s body roadside; there’s no breathalyzer equivalent. In fact, even if an individual’s blood is tested, there is no way to know precisely when the marijuana was consumed; marijuana metabolites can remain in the blood for weeks after use.
So instead of using blood or breath testing, most officers in Boston are relying on roadside tests that examine a person’s balance, cognition, and reflexes. Evidence of marijuana use, ranging from the smell of the drug to visual evidence of the drug can also be used to secure a conviction.
The legal limit for blood alcohol content when impaired by drugs or alcohol is.08 percent. Anything over.08 percent is considered “over the legal limit.
What Are the Penalties for Marijuana DUI?
The police officers and the District Attorney in Massachusetts do not have to prove that you consumed drugs that resulted in a certain blood concentration of the substance; they only have to prove that you were driving while impaired by a substance in order to secure a conviction. That being said, if you are found guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana, the penalties will mirror those for a typical DUI (in Massachusetts, a DUI is called an OUI – operating under the influence) charge. These penalties may include a large fine, a jail sentence, and a license suspension.
What Are Police Officers Trained to Observe in a Massachusetts Marijuana DUI case?
Police officers are trained to look for signs of impairment such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, difficulty walking, and other physical symptoms. Blood tests are another common method used by law enforcement officials to test for drugs. These tests are often performed when police suspect that someone may be driving while intoxicated.
Police officers who specialize in determining if someone has been driving under the influence of drugs use what are known as Drug Recognition Experts (or DREs).
The presence of drugs is often measured through a blood sample or urinalysis. Therefore, the government’s process in determining the presence of drugs in a person’s body after a drug-related OUI stop is a different process than that of an alcohol-related OUI stop.
Police officers can still arrest drivers they suspect are high and describe in court how the drivers behaved during the roadside tests. For example, an officer could tell a jury a driver was unable to walk in a straight line. But under the ruling, the officer could not describe the task as a “test” or say the driver “failed” it.
The term ‘roadside assessment’ should be used instead of ‘field sobriety test’ in marijuana impairment cases. A law enforcement officer may not testify that a defendant “passed” or “failed” any SFST, as this language improperly implies that the SFST is a definitive test of marijuana use or impairment.”
Can I Be Charged with a Marijuana DUI Offense Even Though I Was Not Drinking Alcohol?
A person can be charged with a marijuana DUI offense even though they did not consume alcohol. However, this is only possible if the person is using marijuana within an hour of getting into their vehicle. In addition, a person can be charged with marijuana DUI even if they consumed marijuana earlier in the day. This is because marijuana stays in a person’s body for several days.
If an underage driver submits to chemical testing, produces a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02%, and has no prior DUI convictions, he or she may face a one-year suspension.
An officer could tell a jury that a driver smelled strongly of marijuana and seemed confused but could not use such observations to conclude the driver was high.
However, the court said jurors “are still permitted to utilize their common sense” in considering whether the sobriety assessments and other evidence indicate impairment.
Proving an operating under the influence (OUI) of drugs case is extremely difficult in the Commonwealth.
Can Someone Who Has Been Arrested for a Marijuana DUI Lose Their Job?
A person who has been arrested for a marijuana DUI offense can face serious consequences including losing their job. If you were arrested for a marijuana DUI and lost your job, you could also be subject to fines, community service hours, probation, and more.
Can I Still Drive While Impaired Due to Marijuana Use?
Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all 50 states. Although it is legal to possess small amounts of marijuana, it is still considered a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana in Boston.
THC has been shown to affect several functions of the brain related to driving ability, including dividing one’s attention, balancing, and processing information.
Is It Legal to Smoke Weed in Public Places?
While smoking marijuana in public places is perfectly legal, it is still against the law to smoke weed in vehicles. Smoking pot in cars can cause severe health problems for drivers and passengers alike. As a result, you should never light up inside of a car.
What Is the Possession Limit for Marijuana in Massachusetts?
The possession limit for personal use in Massachusetts is one ounce. However, this amount can vary depending on where you live. For example, residents living in some parts of the state can carry up to 10 ounces of marijuana.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently ruled in Commonwealth v. Gerhardt (2017), that any evidence obtained from drug tests performed by police officers cannot be used against drivers who were arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana (DUI).
The Supreme Court has ruled that roadside, standardized field sobriety tests used to determine whether someone is under the influence of marijuana are not scientifically accurate enough to be admissible in court.
Marijuana DUI Defense Attorney In Boston, Massachusetts
Are you facing charges for a Boston OUI? If so, you need an experienced attorney who knows how to defend against these types of cases. The penalties for being convicted of a drug-related offense can be severe. They include fines, probation, community service, license suspensions, and even jail time.
A conviction could also negatively impact your future job prospects. That is why it is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney in Boston, Massachusetts can help you avoid getting into trouble in the first place. Attorney Michael S. Parousis will also be able to help you fight any charges of criminal penalties if they do arise.
Effects of marijuana on its users create a more substantial risk than the influence of alcohol as it is less obviously correlated to the amount consumed, making it difficult for untrained observers to know whether someone is high.
Because the effects of marijuana may vary greatly from one individual to another, and those effects are as yet not commonly known,” the court said, “neither a police officer nor a lay witness who has not been qualified as an expert may offer an opinion as to whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana.” Therefore, in order for a police officer to testify to the correlation between marijuana impairment and a defendant’s performance of field sobriety testing, that officer must be qualified as an expert witness.
The following information will give you some insight into what to expect from a marijuana DUI defense attorney.
Often, a prosecutor’ s use of a DRE (drug recognition expert) is vital to the successful conviction of these cases. A DRE is called in after an arrest when an officer stops the driver and suspects that he or she may be impaired, but isn’t sure by what drug. The officer calls the nearest available DRE and that begins the 12-step process to determine what the impairment is and whether it’s caused from a drug or a medical condition.
Massachusetts’ DRE program began 20 years ago, with just two police officers. Now there are over 100 DREs, with more expected to come after they complete another two training sessions this year. Since marijuana has been legalized, the state expects to invest heavily in training additional officers as DREs for the future.
If you cause serious bodily injury to another person during an accident, your charges could be considered a felony if it’s your first or second offense. However, if you’re convicted of causing serious bodily injury to another during a third or subsequent offense, your charge could be considered a felony.
You should contact an attorney immediately after any DUI/OUI /DWI arrest and license revocation hearing. You need to be informed of your rights and work closely with an experienced DUI lawyer.
Our Boston DUI Lawyer is Here to Help
Parousis Law is dedicated to protecting you against penalties for DUI and the impacts they can have on your life. For help in building a strong legal defense, contact our Boston DUI lawyer and request a consultation right away at 617.838.2013