Most Floridians understand that drinking too much alcohol and getting behind the wheel is considered by the law to be driving under the influence. But what about consuming other drugs like marijuana in excess before driving? Here’s what you need to know if you find yourself charged with DUI in Florida after consuming drugs other than alcohol.
In Florida, a person may be convicted of DUI if he or she is stopped while under the influence of marijuana or a cannabis product. Even though cannabis usage and possession is legal for medicinal purposes in Florida, if a law enforcement officer believes that a person is driving erratically or unsafely as a result of ingesting marijuana, that person may be subject to prosecution in Florida for DUI.
Testing for marijuana DUI is a little less straightforward than it is for a DUI involving alcohol. Currently, blood and breath tests for THC only show the presence of the chemical in the blood. Unlike alcohol, THC may stay in a person’s bloodstream for weeks or months after ingestion and may no longer be causing impairment.
Although the testing for marijuana for purposes of DUI enforcement is not completely accurate, refusing to submit to testing in certain situations is against the law as well. Florida is a state that assumes consent to testing for any kind of intoxicating drug is given at the time a driver receives his or her driver’s license. As a result, refusing to submit to drug testing if you are stopped for DUI in Florida is a crime of its own and will lead to automatic license suspension.
Not only is refusal to submit to testing for alcohol and drugs a crime in some circumstances, but the state is also allowed to present at trial the fact that you declined to submit to such testing, which may be poorly received by a jury.
As blood tests for marijuana and other drugs are not as well developed as those for alcohol, an arresting officer is likely to use other methods for investigating a non-alcohol DUI. He may use visual cues like bloodshot eyes, unsteadiness on one’s feet, or the presence of marijuana or paraphernalia. The officer may notice the odor of marijuana as well, or he may take into account a suspect’s admission of recent use of cannabis to confirm his or her suspicions of marijuana DUI.
Penalties for marijuana DUI are the same as they are for a DUI involving alcohol. A first offense is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $1,000, a license suspension of between 180 days to one year, and vehicle impoundment of ten days. A second offense for DUI in Florida may lead to up to 9 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, a license suspension of up to 5 years, and 10 days of vehicle impoundment. A third offense is potentially a felony, with a potential one-year jail sentence, up to $4,000 in fines, and a 90-day vehicle impoundment.
In addition to penalties for DUI, a marijuana DUI may also lead to prosecution for unlawful marijuana possession.