Can You Be Charged with Marijuana DUI in Nevada?
Nevada adopted recreational marijuana laws more than five years ago. While the sale, possession, and private use are not illegal for small amounts of the drug when specific criteria are met, you can still get arrested for drugged driving (DUI) if marijuana impairs your ability to drive safely. It doesn’t matter if you got or used the drug legally. Even a first offense marijuana DUI is a very serious matter.
Nevada Marijuana DUI Laws
Under NRS 484C.110, it is unlawful for a person to drive under the influence of marijuana if using the drug makes the driver incapable of operating a vehicle safely or exercising control of a vehicle. Like DUI involving alcohol, the first and second marijuana DUI charges within seven (7) years are prosecuted as misdemeanors, unless the DUI involved death or serious injury. Subsequent marijuana DUI violations and marijuana DUI that causes death or serious injury are felonies. Penalties increase for both misdemeanor and felony repeat offenses. Any marijuana charge is extremely serious, whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Prior to a change in the law in July 2021, DUI with marijuana could be charged as a per se violation if specific amounts of the drug were present in the driver’s blood. Under an important revision in the law, the per se limits are now applied only in felony cases (third and successive violations within seven years). For misdemeanor cases, the prosecutor must demonstrate that marijuana caused impairment to a degree that rendered the driver incapable of driving safely.
Law enforcement can exercise the authority under Nevada’s implied consent law to require a blood test if a person is suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana. The blood test results may be used as part of the evidence to demonstrate the driver’s impairment, even in a misdemeanor case.
Determination of Impairment in Marijuana DUI Cases
If a driver is pulled over on suspicion of DUI — which may occur due to erratic driving or for other reasons — police usually begin by asking questions, observing the driver’s behavior, and possibly administering a preliminary breath test and field sobriety tests. Law enforcement officers are trained to look for signs of marijuana use (or use of other drugs), including difficulty with sobriety tests, dilated pupils, short-term memory loss, eyelid or body tremors, or unusually relaxed and uninhibited behavior. Some officers have specialized drug recognition evaluation training.
If police conclude they have probable cause to arrest for marijuana DUI, they arrest the driver and arrange for a blood test. The blood test results may be used as evidence to prove impairment, but the prosecutor will also need additional evidence to support impairment for misdemeanor charges. That evidence may include the arresting officer’s report and testimony about the arrest, audio or video of the arrest, eyewitness statements, expert testimony, and other evidence relating to the charge.
Defending Against a Nevada Marijuana DUI Charge
Getting legal representation for even your first marijuana DUI charge is just as important as defending against a first DUI charge involving alcohol. Representation for subsequent DUI charges is also essential, especially since the severity of the offense, criminal and administrative penalties, and life consequences increase for repeat violations.
The defense strategy in a particular DUI case depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest and the charges. In a marijuana DUI case, the impairment standard provides a defense attorney with opportunities for challenging the evidence. There are other ways to undermine the prosecution as well.
It’s important to understand that legally buying and using marijuana is not a defense to a DUI with marijuana charge. In addition, having a legal prescription for medical marijuana (or any other drug) is not a defense to a drugged driving charge. The issue in the case is whether the driver was impaired by consumption of the drug — not whether the driver legally possessed or used the drug.
Defending against DUI with marijuana is similar to DUI involving alcohol, and some of the same defense approaches apply. In marijuana DUI, disproving impairment — or providing evidence that makes the impairment conclusion questionable — often is a potential defense. Other DUI defense strategies may involve challenging police procedures during arrest and testing or undermining other elements of the basis for probable cause.
Regardless of the circumstances that lead to a marijuana DUI arrest, an experienced lawyer can assert a vigorous defense to the charge. A successful defense may result in dismissal of the charge or a reduction of the charge to one of less severity and lesser penalties. At The Gersten Law Firm, your initial consultation is always free of charge, so you lose nothing by talking with us about your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas DUI Attorney
If you face a misdemeanor or felony marijuana DUI charge, attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His investigative background, trial experience, and criminal defense focus significantly benefit anyone facing a DUI charge.
The Gersten Law Firm assists clients facing any state or federal criminal charge in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.