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What You Need to Know About Marijuana Driving Laws in New York

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What You Need to Know About Marijuana Driving Laws in New York

As of March 31, 2021, New York state has legalized recreational marijuana for anyone 21 years old or older.  Yet that does not mean that it is now legal to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

If you are found driving under the influence of recreational marijuana you will still be charged with a DUI, or a DWAI, Driving While Ability Impaired.

What is DWAI?

DWAI – Drugs can carry a penalty of up to 7 years in jail, plus a $10,000 fine. 

It’s important to realize that “impairment” is a much lower threshold than “intoxicated.” You can be charged for operating a vehicle with any degree of impairment.

This means technically you could even be charged with DWAI if you’re impaired by innocuous drugs like benadryl, or prescription drugs. Under the law, it is your responsibility to pay attention to your level of impairment, and to be aware that you may be impaired after consuming certain drugs. 

Can you refuse a marijuana test?

New York is an implied consent state. This means that by getting behind the wheel of a call in New York you are automatically consenting to breath, blood, urine, or saliva tests for the purposes of determining drug or alcoholic content when there’s reason to believe you may be under the influence.

If you refuse, your license may be immediately suspended for up to one year. You may be charged with a $500 fine. You may still be arrested and charged with a DWAI. The only thing refusing the test does is deny the prosecution of evidence, and police may still get a warrant to demand a blood test from you. 

How long does marijuana remain in the blood?  

While the type of drug tests that employers use can detect THC in the blood for up to seven days, the types of tests that officers use can only detect THC in the bloodstream for a few hours after the marijuana is consumed.

There are some defenses if the test determines there is THC in your blood. For example, THC levels will be elevated in habitual users whether or not they are actively under the influence of the drug, or impaired by it. 

In New York there is not currently a given figure for the amount of THC you can legally have in your blood while continuing to drive, which sets it apart, rather sharply, from DWI cases where there is a specific blood alcohol limit that must be met or proven before you can be charged. Instead, officers are only looking to make a case for “impairment.”

This provides another avenue for your defense. If we can demonstrate that you were driving safely at the time that officers pulled you over then we can make the case that you were not impaired.

DWAI charges are serious!

If you are facing a DWAI charge you should take it just as seriously as you take a DUI or DWI charge. 

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney and traffic law attorney to help you navigate your case today. These charges can be life-changing and can carry many long-term consequences.

See also: 

What to Do If You Get Pulled Over in New York

Can You Get a DUI While Parked in New York? 

Can You Get a DUI for Legal Drug Use? 

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