When people think of OVI or DUI (operating a vehicle under the influence), drinking and driving most often comes to mind.  However, Columbus police and Ohio State Highway Patrol are increasingly cracking down as well on “drugged driving” – driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs. 

According to the National Drug Control Policy, about 1 in 8 weekend nighttime drivers nationwide is driving under the influence of drugs.  Given this statistic, police departments across Ohio are revamping their OVI / DUI stops to screen for drivers under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

Marijuana Ohio DUI OVI

How Ohio Officers Evaluate a Driver for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana or Other Drugs

In recent years, Columbus police and police officers across Ohio are becoming certified as “drug-recognition experts” so that they can learn to assess a driver on the scene to determine if they are under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.   

Officers are taught a 12-step drug evaluation and classification protocol to evaluate drivers drivers suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.    The steps include things like: a breath alcohol test, interview, eye exam, field sobriety tests, and blood, saliva or urine tests. 

What Level of Marijuana in the Blood or Urine is Considered “Impaired” under Ohio Law?

Under Ohio OVI law, the following levels of marijuana are considered “per se” impaired:

  • Blood test –  2 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana in the driver’s blood,
  • Urine test –  10 nanograms per milliliter in the urine).

If there was not blood or urine test performed, thee prosecutor must use other facts (field sobriety tests, etc) to prove that the driver was impaired.  

Some People Think They Drive Better When they are High – Is this True?  

The idea that you pay more attention to the road while high or under the influence of marijuana is a common belief among many Ohioans.   This question has actually been studied by scientists.

In one study, scientists asked who drives better – those impaired by alcohol or by marijuana?  They concluded that neither the drunk or high drivers were “models of safety on the road.”  Those under the influence of marijuana tended to drive much slower than those who had been drinking.  The marijuana smokers also seemed to be “more aware of their impairment.”  However, even though the marijuana users were more aware of their impairment, they could not compensate for the drug’s effect on their driving. 

Are there any Defenses to a Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Charge?

Yes.  Many of the same defenses to a traditional OVI alcohol charge apply also to a driving under the influence of marijuana charge.  A summary of potential Columbus OVI defenses are explained here.  These include defenses such as: 

 (1) The Initial Traffic Stop or Search. If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to believe you had committed a traffic or criminal offense, the entire case could be thrown out.  

(2) Field Sobriety Tests.  We examine whether the officer properly trained in field sobriety testing, whether he demonstrated and administered all of the tests correctly, and whether there are any facts about the tests that do not comply with national training standards. 

(3) Urine or Blood Tests.  Were these samples taken in compliance with the Fourth Amendment?  Was the testing done properly?  Were the samples contaminated in any way?

(4) Video, Reports and other Evidence.  In every case in which a video is available, we obtain a copy through discovery.  In viewing the video, does it clearly show the field sobriety tests?  Video evidence is often the key to establishing a strong defense – as in this OVI case, which was dismissed based on video evidence.

What are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Ohio?

The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana in Ohio are the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol.  Both fall under Ohio’s OVI statute – R.C. 4511.19.  Whether you have been convicted of driving while drinking or while using marijuana – both are an OVI under Ohio law. 

  • First OVI offense convictions. A defendant convicted of a first offense OVI will face a fine of between $375 and $1,075, at least three days (and up to six months) in jail, or both; and between one year and three years of license suspension.  The jail time can often be served in a 72 hour driver invention program, which is usually held at a local hotel.   The suspension can be reduced in half (i.e. 1 year suspension to 6 months) if the judge grants a restricted license with unlimited driving privileges with an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. 
  • Second OVI conviction within six years (or within 10 years after April 6, 2017). A defendant convicted of a second offense OVI within 10 years will face a fine of between $525 and $1,625, at least ten days (20 days if a high test or prior refusal in 20 years) in jail, or both; and between one and seven years of license suspension.  
  • Third OVI conviction within six years (or within 10 years after April 6, 2017). A defendant convicted of a third OVI within six years (or 10 years after April 6) will face a fine of between $850 and $2,750, at least 30 days (and up to one year) in jail, or both; and between 1 and 12 years of license suspension.

Should I Talk a Lawyer About my Ohio Driving Under the Influence (OVI) of Marijuana Charge?

If you have been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana in Columbus or elsewhere in Ohio, it is highly advised that you speak with an attorney about your options.  OVI is a very serious charge that could have long lasting effects on your future employment prospects as well as other areas of your life.  

To speak with one of our Columbus driving under the influence of marijuana attorneys, call (614) 361-2804 or fill out the confidential form on the right. 

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