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Tampa Criminal Lawyer > Blog > DUI Defense > Can You Get A DUI For Driving Under The Influence Of Cannabis?

Can You Get A DUI For Driving Under The Influence Of Cannabis?


Since 2016, the city of Tampa has decriminalized possession of small quantities of cannabis, but don’t let this make you overconfident.  Neither Tampa nor the state of Florida in general has become a 420-friendly free-for-all, despite that people might sometimes act that way. You can still get civil fines for cannabis possession, and it is still against the law to drive under the influence of cannabis.  As with so much else related to cannabis policy, the laws about driving under the influence of cannabis leave plenty of room for ambiguity.  What does it mean to be under the influence where marijuana is concerned?  How can prosecutors prove that you were too impaired to drive?  Even though some cannabis-related actions are now legal, or at least less illegal than they used to be, you can still get in serious legal trouble if you drive under the influence of cannabis.  If you are being accused of impaired driving related to a substance other than alcohol, contact a Tampa DUI defense lawyer.

Cannabis and Impaired Driving in Florida

According to Florida law, you can get the same criminal charge, namely driving under the influence (DUI), whether the substance that is causing that influence is alcohol, cannabis, a prescription drug considered unsafe for driving, or some other controlled substance.  The penalties are the same, regardless of which substance caused the impairment.  What matters is whether it is your first DUI or a repeat offense, and whether you caused an accident.

There Is No Cannabis Breathalyzer, at Least Not Yet

In DUI cases related to alcohol, the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is usually the deciding factor in securing a conviction or a guilty plea.  There are currently no field tests for determining the amount of cannabis a driver ingested shortly before driving.  Urine tests for cannabis simply show whether the person has used cannabis in the past several days.  Hair tests can detect cannabis use from as much as 45 days ago; these tests have been criticized as racially discriminatory, because the cannabis markers disappear more quickly from straight, light-colored hair than they do from textured, dark hair, meaning that two people who smoked weed together a month ago and have not smoked since could get test results.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles are working on developing a breath-based test that will measure the concentration of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, in a person’s breath.  The results of this test would be much more applicable to cannabis DUI traffic stops than currently available forensic tests.

Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven

Right now, cannabis laws are sufficiently ambiguous as to enable prosecutors to apply them subjectively and arbitrarily; it is possible to face charges for cannabis-related offenses even when you were unaware that you were breaking a law.  A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are being accused of driving under the influence of cannabis.  Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.




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