As the legal use of cannabis becomes more widespread across the country states have taken various approaches to DUI drug laws when it comes to marijuana. Unfortunately, the state of Georgia is not only known for having some of the strictest marijuana laws and penalties, but also DUI drug laws that appear to many as archaic. Marijuana is unique from other, commonly used drugs, in many ways.. While it can produce the same psychotropic effects that other drugs may over a short period of time before fading, its presence in your body can remain for significantly longer. In fact, those who use marijuana regularly will likely always have some level of the drug in their body, though that doesn’t mean they are always impaired.
Drug DUI stops in Georgia
Drug DUIs differ from alcohol-related DUIs in the state of Georgia. There is no qualitative legal limit for drug consumption in the state, so the presence of any can constitute drug DUI charges. You can be pulled over on the assumption that you could be driving under the influence of marijuana due to driving irregularities or violations. If the smell of marijuana is detected, officers will often operate under the assumption that you have been recently using even though the smell can get into clothing without using or stay on them for a length of time after the effects have worn off. Officers may also make determinations on mannerisms and what they observe during their conversation with you.
If, after making these observations, they believe you may be under the influence, they are likely to give you the standard alcohol field sobriety test. That is right. The field tests are designed to judge whether or not a driver is impaired due to the effects of alcohol, not marijuana.
Testing for marijuana
Georgia’s DUI drug laws are also far behind when it comes to testing for THC. In other states that were some of the first to legalize marijuana in any form, such as Oregon and Washington, science-based information was used to determine what THC level present in the bloodstream could constitute an impairment. This would allow them to determine if the driver was likely under the effects of marijuana at the time of the stop instead of having a residual amount left in their bloodstream from consumption well before getting into a vehicle; even days before.
Instead of following the standards set by these two states, Georgia imposed a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to testing the blood for marijuana use. They do not use the researched level of THC that has been deemed to result in impairment. Georgia will levy a drug DUI charge if even a trace amount of THC metabolite is found in the blood. This means that THC doesn’t even need to be present in your body during the time of the test. If even a small amount of the compound from your body metabolizing previous THC use is found, you could be charged. These metabolites can stay present in your bloodstream for weeks after your final use, well past the point of any form of effects and possible impairment.
Implied consent law
Georgia also imposes the Implied Consent Law on any person operating a motor vehicle. Under the law, the implication is made that by engaging in the act of operating a motor vehicle, you are giving consent for a breath, blood, or urine test. While you always have the right to refuse this type of testing, your refusal will be categorized as a DUI refusal by the state and can be used against you when you go to trial. If the case goes to trial and you have refused the test, the prosecutor will claim that the refusal to test shows that you are, in fact, conscious of your guilt.
Not only does the DUI drug testing in Georgia lead to inaccuracies regarding the actual level of impairment while driving, but the penalties for conviction are stricter too. Any person convicted of a DUI in the state will be given a driver’s license suspension for six months with a first offense and a minimum of three years for a second one. Second suspensions result in hard suspensions, which will not allow you to seek out a work permit once your license has been suspended a second time. These penalties are considered extremely outdated especially considering the fact that there are no felony charges laid for a DUI in the state until the 4th conviction, which is usually the type of charge that would warrant such a long suspension. Even more confounding, is the fact that in some cases, driving can resume early if an ignition interlock device is installed on your vehicle, which checks for alcohol levels, not marijuana.
With the recent legalization of medical marijuana in the state, it is easy to imagine that a major uptick in DUI drug cases may lead to difficulties for the state legislature who will need to deal with how to prevent penalization of drivers who are not under the influence, can legally consume the drug, but test positive for trace amounts. Because of these archaic laws, it is even more critical to hire an experienced DUI lawyer to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.