Law enforcement focusing efforts on reducing drugged drivers under the influence of marijuana.

Washington voters legalized the use of marijuana in 2012. When the measure was approved, some law enforcement agencies expressed concern over the increase of motorists who may use the drug before getting behind the wheel. They felt that legalizing the drug gave an impression that it was safe to use, and wanted to emphasize that motorists should not use marijuana before they drive.

Recently, statistics released by the state’s toxicology lab show a dramatic increase in the use of marijuana by motorists who are suspected of driving under the influence. In blood samples analyzed by the lab from 2015 DUI arrests, 33 percent of motorists suspected of DUI have THC present in their systems. In 2012, this number was only 19 percent.

This comes on the heels of another report by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission that examined fatal crashes for the presence of THC in drivers. These results showed that in 2014 fatal accidents, THC was found in 14 percent of motorists in fatal accidents, which is an 8 percent increase over 2013 numbers.

Neither of these studies checked for “active” THC in a driver’s system. THC can remain in a person’s system long after it has been used, and it may not be causing any kind of impairing effect on the individual. Officials want to take a closer look to determine if the motorists were actually under the influence of marijuana or simply had used the drug within the past month.

These reports have led to an increase in police looking for drugged drivers on Washington roadways. The state has laws that allow motorists to face DUI charges if more than 5 nanograms per milliliter. Law enforcement officers have extensive training on some of the signs that would indicate a driver is under the influence of marijuana, and this could result in more individuals being charged with drugged driving.

If you are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, you need to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You may believe that the prosecution has all of the evidence they need to obtain a conviction in your case, but, you need to make sure that all of your options are closely analyzed.

Your attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine how best to proceed. This could include negotiating with prosecutors in an effort to have charges reduced, or even contesting the charges at trial.

The impact of a DUI conviction is extremely severe, and even a first-time offense will have major implications for your life. You will have to rely upon family and friends to drive you to work and school. Your insurance costs will skyrocket. Any later DUI convictions will only increase the penalties, so you need to make sure that you protect your rights during this time.

Green Ritchie & Bogar, PLLC