DWI Also Means Driving While High

  • Dan T. Matrafajlo
  • Tue Sep 2023
  • DWI,
  • 0

Driving While High

Although marijuana has been legalized in some states, including New Jersey, it is important to remember that driving under the influence is still illegal in all states – and a “pot DWI” can carry substantial penalties.

Despite the existence of driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws nationwide, many drivers are unaware that you can get slapped with drunk driving charges for being high behind the wheel. The arrest of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Von Bell for DWI of marijuana brought to the forefront this issue. Bell reportedly told law enforcement that he had not had a drink and only smoked marijuana two hours prior to getting in the car, and that he felt fine to drive. Nevertheless, he was charged.

Legalization of Marijuana in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization (CREAMM) Act allows for the legal sale and use of cannabis products for residents 21 years and older. However, just because the sale and use of pot is legal in the state, it is still a controlled substance when it comes to drivers getting behind the wheel after smoking, even if they “feel fine.”

DWI Marijuana Laws in New Jersey

New Jersey law treats driving under the influence of marijuana the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. The same state statutes apply wherein you cannot drive under the influence of alcohol with a blood content of 0.10 percent or higher.
Under NJ 39:4-50, Driving While Intoxicated, includes those drugs, both prescribed and recreational that are “narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing.” In New Jersey, “narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug” includes all forms of marijuana, regardless of whether it is eaten, digested via liquids, or smoked.

Testing for Marijuana in a DWI Arrest

Alcohol is easily detectable in urine, blood, and breath samples. However, detection of marijuana is not as simple. The substance in the marijuana plant that law enforcement looks for is known as THC or Delta 9 THC. Although THC is detectable in both blood and urine samples, they are not equal, or even ideal substances for DWI testing.

The major problem with marijuana testing is that THC-9 is not actually found in urine. Instead, TCH-COOH, the metabolized product appears in urine. This is different than the active and impairing THC Delta 9. Moreover, the urine analysis cannot provide details as to how much THC is in the system or when the individual ingested. This means that the lab could be testing urine with THC that the individual consumed weeks earlier, even though it is not impairing the driver.

For these reasons, it is imperative that you immediately hire an experienced New Jersey DWI attorney if you are facing charges for a DWI, especially one involving marijuana as the alleged controlled substance.

Contact Us Today!

If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you should discuss your case, including any potential meritorious motions to suppress, with an experienced New Jersey DWI attorney. For more information or to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, please call Beninato & Matrafajlo Attorneys at Law, LLC at 908-248-4404.

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Dan T. Matrafajlo

Dan T. Matrafajlo

NJ State Bar: #031722003

Dan T. Matrafajlo, Esq., is the managing member and lead partner at Beninato and Matrafajlo, Attorneys at Law, LLC. Renowned for groundbreaking contributions to personal injury law, he has set legal precedents with influential Appellate decisions and garnered recognition in the New Jersey Law Journal. A consistent honoree on Super Lawyers' Rising Star list for the past five years, Matrafajlo's litigation prowess is widely acknowledged. He has won various awards like Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters Association 2019, and Nominated into Super Lawyers as a Rising Star from 2012 until the Present.

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