Driving under the Influence of Marijuana in NJ

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Driving under the influence of marijuana in New Jersey, or DUI marijuana, is a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, and may result in a mandatory license suspension, fines and surcharges, and potential jail time – among other consequences. If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI in New Jersey, the experienced DUI defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm have handled hundreds of DUI cases in New Jersey involving marijuana and are ready and able to fight your charges in court. Our DUI attorneys represent clients throughout NJ, including in Fort Lee, Paramus, Wayne, Clifton, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Woodbridge, and Old Bridge. In fact, one of our attorneys is a certified field sobriety test instructor which is the tests that they have you perform on the side of the road. In addition, another attorney at the firm used to prosecute DUI cases for the State of NJ. Now, let us put our experience, knowledge, and specialized training to work for you. Contact our offices anytime for immediate assistance at 201-556-1570. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.

Here is a review from one of our many satisfied DWI clients: “Saved me from a DUI. HIGHLY recommended”

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“I highly recommend Travis and his law firm. A year ago I got into an accident,blood drawn, DUI. I knew I was facing life changing charges. Travis was able to get me off with no charges! When the judge reached a verdict, he mentioned the “good work of my attorney” that prevented them from proceeding with my prosecution. It is safe to say Travis saved my life and if your in a tough spot I highly recommend Travis to be your attorney.”

Effects of Marijuana on Your Ability to Drive

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are many effects of smoking marijuana that may impair a person’s ability to drive. When a person smokes marijuana, the chemical compounds contained in the plant, specifically delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and then the blood carries THC to the brain and other organs. Once in the brain, THC over-activates certain brain cell receptors causing a person to feel “high.” The specific short-term effects of smoking marijuana are: altered senses, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, and impaired memory. Thus, getting behind the wheel after smoking marijuana very well may cause a person to have slower reaction times and poor coordination which would impair their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Charged with DUI on Marijuana in NJ

Resource: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

When it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana (DUI), R.S. 39:4-50(a)(ii) states that if a person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.10% or higher, or the person operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, that person shall be subject to a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $500 and a period of detainment of not less than 12 hours nor more than 48 hours spent during two consecutive days of not less than six hours each day and served as prescribed by the program requirements of the Intoxicated Driver Resource Centers section and, in the discretion of the court, a term of imprisonment of not more than 30 days and shall forthwith forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of not less than seven months nor more than one year.

NOTE: Driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence of drugs (DUI) are essentially the same charge in New Jersey and are governed by the same statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. Thus, if someone says “DWI” or “DUI” it really makes no difference with regard to the conviction or penalties in NJ.

Proving a DUI for Marijuana in New Jersey

Generally speaking, being under the influence is defined as “a substantial deterioration or diminution of the mental faculties or physical capabilities of a person whether it be due to intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit producing drugs. State v. Tamburro, 68 N.J. 414, 421 (1975). The fact of the matter is that both drugs and alcohol can impact a person’s ability to drive a car, but drugs, unlike alcohol cannot be measured by a breathalyzer or Alcotest machine. Thus, anyone who is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs will usually be subjected to an evaluation by a Drug Recognition Expert (“DRE”) to assess the driver’s physical coordination and ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. A DRE will also request a urine sample, but due to the metabolic rates of THC, which typically remains in a person’s system for many weeks, a urine test is not dispositive of driving under the influence of marijuana.

It is extremely important to note that a DRE is not required to prove in court that a person was driving while under the influence of marijuana. There are two ways that the prosecution can prove that a defendant was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. One method is by way of expert testimony that can be elicited either from a DRE or from a police officer who has the knowledge, skill, and experience in discerning the effects of marijuana on human beings; and the other is to proceed without any expert testimony and submit all of the available admissible evidence to the judge who then can then assess the defendant’s conduct, results of any scientific tests, as well as direct and circumstantial evidence. State v. Bealor, 187 N.J. 574 (2006). In other words, a DRE is not necessary to evaluate a driver suspected to be driving under the influence of marijuana and, more significantly, a DRE is not needed for trial purposes because police officers are permitted to provide testimony regarding whether or not a defendant was under the influence of marijuana.

The key question during a trial for driving under the influence of marijuana is whether the proofs are sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that, at the time of arrest, the defendant suffered from a substantial deterioration or diminution of the mental faculties or physical capabilities or was in a drug-induced state that so affected the defendant’s judgment or control as to make it improper to drive or whether the defendant was under the effect of a drug that altered his normal physical coordination and mental faculties as to render the defendant a danger to himself as well as to other persons on the highways. The bottom line is that pursuant to State v. Bealor, a DRE is not required for the court to convict a defendant for driving under the influence of marijuana.

The fact remains as well that, even with the legalization of medical marijuana in New Jersey, anyone who is under the influence of marijuana cannot operate a motor vehicle. The New Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act (“CUMMA”), N.J.S.A. 24:6I-1 authorizes the possession and use of marijuana to treat or alleviate pain associated with specific debilitating medical conditions. However, CUMMA specifically prohibits a person to “operate, navigate, or be in actual control of any vehicle, aircraft, railroad train, stationary heavy equipment or vessel while under the influence of marijuana.” N.J.S.A. 24:6I-8(a). In other words, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is not a defense against a charge for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Even in states where recreational marijuana is legal, there are “drugged driving” statutes that prohibit operating a motor vehicle after smoking marijuana. Colorado, for example, one of the pioneer states of legalized recreational marijuana created a proscribed legal limit of THC of 5 nanograms per milliliter that gives rise to an inference that the defendant was under the influence of marijuana, thus subjecting the driver to the penalties associated with driving under the influence. C.R.S.A. 42-4-1301(1)(a)-(c). Moreover, Colorado’s implied consent laws state that any person who operates a vehicle there shall be required to provide a breath or blood test when there is probable cause to believe the driver was driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a drug. C.R.S.A. 42-4-1301.1(2)(a)(I). Currently, New Jersey does not have any similar laws establishing a legal THC limit or implied consent of a blood draw.

Contact the New Jersey Marijuana DUI Defense Lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm Today

The legalization of marijuana in New Jersey is a hot topic these days, with many states recently legalizing recreational marijuana and many New Jersey Legislators taking steps toward legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey. However, regardless of the legal status of recreational and medical marijuana, the fact remains that driving under the influence of marijuana is punishable by law in New Jersey. If you are accused of driving while under the influence of marijuana, there is one law firm you should turn to for help – The Tormey Law Firm. Our team of New Jersey DUI defense lawyers have successfully defended driving under the influence of marijuana cases in courts throughout New Jersey and we know what it takes to put forth an effective defense. In fact, our team includes certified field sobriety test instructors as well as our own DRE defense experts who are available to scrutinize the methods used by the police during your traffic stop and subsequent investigation. Don’t hesitate to call the Tormey Law Firm if you are facing charges for driving under the influence of marijuana at 201-556-1570.


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