High Stakes

The consequences of driving under the influence

Last year, data came out showing that more people had been pulled over for driving high in Washington than ever before. Now that marijuana is legal, many are concerned that number will climb even higher. According to Spokane Police Public Information Officer Teresa Fuller, it is too early to tell, but she warns that driving high will get you a DUI.

"If you are going to go out and have a good time, have a plan to get home without driving," Fuller says. "It is the safest thing to do so you don't become a statistic."

To avoid becoming a statistic, here is what you need to know about marijuana and driving.

Marijuana level: Just like alcohol, there is a legal limit when it comes to marijuana. The legal limit for Washington is 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter. If you think that doesn't sound like very much, you're correct, but active THC does dissipate much faster than alcohol.

Being pulled over: According to Fuller, officers may become suspicious that a driver is under the influence if the car is weaving, speeding or going too slow, or if the driver sits through more than one rotation of a stoplight, among other indicators.

Testing: If an officer has probable cause to suspect impairment, you will be taken to a hospital or clinic for a blood test. While the results won't come back for a few weeks, you are under arrest at that point, and will be booked with your case forwarded to the office of the prosecutor. If you refuse a blood test, you will be detained and the police may call a drug recognition expert. The experts have been trained to recognize involuntary eye movements, blood pressure indicators and other signs that a person is under the influence of drugs. Their diagnosis can determine the charge against you.

A DUI from drugs is a DUI: A marijuana or drug-related DUI is treated the same in the eyes of the law as if you are driving drunk and carries the same penalties, including possible license suspension, fines and jail time. ♦

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