Can You Get in Trouble for Driving While High on Marijuana?

Ohio law treats driving while impaired by marijuana the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. State statutes refer to both alleged criminal offenses as operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI), and courts impose the same types of penalties regardless of whether a person gets convicted of driving while drunk or high.

Seeking advice and representation from a Columbus, Ohio, DWI defense lawyer is imperative when charged with driving while high on marijuana. Mandated penalties for even a first-time marijuana-related OVI conviction include:

  • Jail time, monitored house arrest, or completion of a multiday Driver Intervention Program that costs hundreds of dollars
  • Fines that range from $375 to $1,075
  • Total denial of driving privileges for at least 15 days
  • Driver’s license suspension of 1-3 years that also applies to commercial driving certifications

Each component of an OVI sentence grows more severe with subsequent convictions or guilty pleas. Judges also require use of an ignition interlock device — a so-called “car breathalyzer” — and specially designed offender plates for for driving privileges after a second OVI offense.

One of the most important services a Columbus DWI lawyer provides is questioning the way alcohol and drug tests were administered, analyzed, and reported to a prosecuting attorney. Any failure by a police officer, lab technician, testing facility, or court official to comply with the strict rules for collecting and preserving blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and drug level evidence can provide grounds for asking a judge to dismiss an OVI charge.

Drug test results play a very important role in OVI cases stemming from suspected marijuana use. In fact, Ohio courts recognize so-called per se (“by itself”) results as proof that a person was too high to drive safely. As summarized in the following table, those legal limits for marijuana are easy to reach when taking therapeutic doses of medical cannabis.

Ohio Per Se Limits for Drugged Driving While Under the Influence of Marijuana

Urine Blood
Marijuana 10 nanograms or higher 2 nanograms or higher
Marijuana metabolites and a BAC of .08 or higher 15 nanograms or higher 5 nanograms or higher
Marijuana metabolites 35 nanograms or higher 50 nanograms or higher

In addition to marijuana, Ohio tests OVI suspects for, and sets per se limits for, amphetamines, cocaine, cocaine metabolites, heroin, heroin metabolites, LSD, methamphetamine, PCP (phencyclidine), and salvia. Many powerful prescription painkillers produce the physical effects of heroin. Even more concerning, the most-widely prescribed attention-deficit/hyperactivity medications contain amphetamine and methamphetamine as active pharmaceutical ingredients. People who take these legal drugs to maintain their health and improve their physical and mental functioning must drive carefully and keep detailed medical records to protect themselves from false accusations of OVI.

A related concern is that anyone charged with drugged driving faces the possibility of being charged with marijuana possession or other drug offenses. A Columbus defense lawyer who has helped other OVI suspects will know how to protect his/her client from a wrongful conviction.

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