Virginia Marijuana DUI Lawyer

Despite the decriminalization of marijuana in DC, in Virginia, it is still illegal to possess marijuana. If a person is found to be in possession of half an ounce up to five pounds, that is going to be considered possession with the intent to distribute. A person who is under the influence of marijuana can be charged with a DUI under Virginia law.

In addition to the DUI, there are a couple of other charges a person could face. The services of a Virginia marijuana DUI lawyer can help an individual attempt to lessen the charges and mitigate potential penalties that come with DUI drug charges.

What the Prosecution Must Prove

In a marijuana DUI case, the prosecution has to prove two things. The first is that the person is operating a motor vehicle. In Virginia, operating is something that is broader than just driving, and includes not only driving, but also sitting parked in the vehicle if the motor is on or even if just the keys are in the ignition.

In addition to that, the government is going to have to prove that the person was under the influence as a result of having marijuana in their system. They are not going to be able to rely on proving that any certain amount was in their system, but rather they will need to rely on an expert witness to testify that the amount found in the person’s blood rendered them under the influence and unsafe for driving.

Penalties for a Marijuana DUI

If someone unreasonably refuses to give a blood sample, they might find themselves also charged with refusal. But beyond that, if the person still has the marijuana in their possession or in their vehicle at the time of their arrest, they can be charged with marijuana possession, which is a misdemeanor. They potentially can be charged with either the misdemeanor version or the felony version of possession with intent to distribute marijuana if they are found possessing it in a certain quantity.

The penalties for a marijuana DUI are the same as for alcohol-based DUIs. It is a class 1 misdemeanor offense which carries up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. If it is the first offense with no aggravating factors, it is typically going to involve some suspended jail time, a license suspension of 12 months with the possibility of getting restricted license, 20 hours of VASAP classes, a fine, and an ignition interlock on their vehicle for at least six months if they do ask for a restricted license. A Virginia marijuana DUI lawyer can help individuals challenge the suspension of their license and/or help them apply for a restricted license.

How Marijuana DUI Cases Differ From Alcohol-Based Cases

The primary difference in the marijuana DUI case is what the government must do to prove their case. Whereas in an alcohol-related case, the government is going to be relying upon a certificate of analysis showing that someone has a blood alcohol of 0.08 or more. There is no similar certificate that the government can use in a marijuana DUI case, rather they must rely on the testimony of an expert witness who will say that the amount of marijuana found in the person’s bloodstream corresponds with them being too impaired to drive.

How Evidence Differs

The primary piece of evidence to prove that a person is under the influence in an alcohol case is going to be a certificate of analysis that is a result of a breathalyzer test. In a marijuana DUI case, the government will not only have to bring forward the certificate of analysis to show that there was marijuana in the defendant’s system at the time they were operating a motor vehicle, but also they must utilize the testimony of an expert witness who is going to be able to testify that the amount of marijuana in the defendant’s system rendered them under the influence. Additionally, if the driver admits that they are high from marijuana use, that will be used against them at trial as well.

Importance of a Lawyer

There is a lot more opportunity to attack the government’s evidence certainly on the forensic side in a marijuana DUI case than there is in an alcohol case. A judge is going to have to be persuaded that the amount of marijuana in the defendant’s system rendered them under the influence. A good cross-examination of the expert in many cases can be the difference between being convicted or not convicted. Certainly, a person would want to work with someone who has experience cross-examining these kinds of experts and defending these kinds of cases.

It is important to hire a Virginia marijuana DUI lawyer as soon as the person has received their charge. As part of the process of being arrested, the person will be processed and taken before a magistrate and, ultimately, released from jail. But at the first opportunity that a person has once they have been released, they should contact an attorney to begin working on the defense of their case as well as to help them with proactive things they can be doing to help their case from the beginning.