Driving under the influence (DUI) does not only mean the influence of alcohol. It also refers to operating a vehicle after using any impairing drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime in all 50 states – even those that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis. If the police catch someone driving under the influence of marijuana, that person could face significant criminal penalties. The specific statutes and punishments for drugged driving depend on the state.
Drugged driving in the District of Columbia is against the law under D.C. Code 50-2206.11. No driver may operate or be in physical control of any vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of any alcohol or drug. This includes marijuana. Despite Washington D.C. legalizing the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana for citizens, it is still against the law to drive after using an impairing amount of this drug.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is the same level of crime as driving drunk in D.C. A first offense comes with a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. D.C. does not, however, have a felony DUI charge. Even subsequent drugged driving arrests will remain misdemeanors. Drivers in D.C. give their implied consent to submit to two chemical tests to determine alcohol or drug blood content.
The Maryland Code of Transportation, section 21-902, states that a person may not drive or attempt to drive a vehicle while so impaired by any drug or combination of drugs that he or she cannot safely operate the vehicle. This includes prescription drugs and medications if they impair the driver. A first offense of DUI with marijuana in Maryland could result in imprisonment of up to two months and/or a fine of up to $500. A second offense increases the possible sentence to one year in prison. A third offense can come with up to three years behind bars and/or a fine of up to $3,000. A prior offense could be a DUI involving either drugs or alcohol.
The law prohibiting drugged driving in Virginia is state code section 18.2-266. This statute says it is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any narcotic drug, self-administrated intoxicant of any nature or any combination of drugs to a degree that impairs the ability to drive safely. The law lists the amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, phencyclidine and methylenedioxymethamphetamine that would qualify a driver as impaired, but it does not list a set amount of marijuana. It is largely up to the police officer to determine if a driver is impaired enough by marijuana to be unable to safely drive.
The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana in Virginia for a first offense is a minimum $250 fine with no mandatory jail time. A judge could still order jail time, however, depending on the nature of the offense. A second drugged driving offense comes with one month in jail (10 days mandatory) and a minimum fine of $500. If caught in possession of marijuana, the DUI driver could face additional penalties, such as 30 days to one or more years in prison and $500 or more in fines.
In D.C., Maryland and Virginia, causing a car accident while driving under the influence of marijuana could lead to civil liability for the driver. The at-fault driver could face lawsuits from victims on top of criminal charges for DUI and/or possession of marijuana. Civil lawsuits could force the driver or his or her insurance company to pay for victims’ vehicle reparations, medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. Driving under the influence of marijuana is a reckless and dangerous offense that could ruin lives – both the driver’s and an accident victim’s.