Victims of Marijuana DUI Accidents

Cannabis is a new and vastly growing industry, and it seems nowadays that marijuana users are everywhere. The rapidly changing landscape of marijuana includes the laws and regulations that must be abided by. However, the laws surrounding the consumption and usage of marijuana can be ambiguous. Although Washington State has legalized cannabis use for adults, there are still several restrictions, and it is heavily criminalized. There are hefty consequences for marijuana DUI offense.

It is important to be careful when you are on the road. Consuming marijuana while operating heavy machinery (e.g., a car, or equipment at work) can have serious consequences. When drivers smoke weed and decide to drive, they are putting themselves and others on the road at risk. Likewise, when an employee smokes weed and operates heavy machinery or is managing equipment, the safety of the employee and their co-workers is at risk. If you suffered damages because of a negligent driver or were injured at work because of the carelessness of someone under the influence, it is crucial to seek medical attention and speak with a legal professional.

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), in 2014, a study was done to demonstrate the increase of marijuana use among Washington drivers. The association acknowledges that there was an increase in “THC-positive drivers.” Furthermore, it was concluded that the number of drivers involved in marijuana-related fatal crashes doubled to 17%. Unfortunately, many drivers feel as though being under the influence of marijuana does not hinder their driving ability. Nevertheless, this is not always the situation; the potency of the weed, and the individual, and other factors are not taken into consideration. If you were injured in a vehicle crash (car accident, truck, or motorcycle) with a driver, who was under the influence of marijuana, consult with a legal professional.

Regardless of the legalization of cannabis, driving while under the influence of marijuana is still penalized by the law. If you were in a car accident and suspect that the driver was under the influence of cannabis, it is imperative to consult an attorney. Your injuries might seem minor, nevertheless do not underestimate the damages from a vehicle accident as they can lead to long-term complications.

Lawyer for Marijuana DUI in Bellingham, Washington

One of the biggest concerns with the growing legalization of medical and recreational marijuana is the risks of driving while under the influence. The U.S. Department of Transportation states that marijuana is the most frequent drug detected in crash-related accidents other than alcohol. While being under the influence of marijuana has common effects, the experience changes for each individual. Some common side effects include random thoughts, forgetfulness, and a distorted perception of time. There are many ways in which the side effects of cannabis can cause a driver to become harmful to himself and others on the road.

If you or a loved one were in a vehicle crash, and the driver was under the influence of cannabis, you should focus on your health. At PNW Trial Lawyers, our experienced car accident attorneys can help you with your claim. We will use our resources to help gather evidence on your behalf, demonstrate the other party’s negligence, negotiate with the insurance agencies, and, if necessary, we can pursue litigation. Our attorneys can help you with the technical and legal aspects so that you can focus on recovering.

If you suffered damages in a vehicle collision because of a driver who was under the influence of marijuana, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney. Car crashes can have an intensive impact on your physical, emotional, and mental health. At PNW Trial Lawyers, we fight for our client’s rights to just compensation.

Contact us at (360) 483-5201 for a free consultation. At PNW Trial Lawyers, we serve clients in Bellingham, Everett, Mt. Vernon, Anacortes, and the surrounding areas of Whatcom County, Skagit County, and Snohomish County.

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Overview of Marijuana DUI Accident in Washington

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Washington State Laws on Cannabis & DUI

In November 2012, the legalization of recreational marijuana was passed by voters. Initiative 502 (I-502) on marijuana reform amends many of Washington’s Revised Codes relating to marijuana. Also, it established a blood control level for driving under the influence, an age limit to purchase and possess cannabis, and much more. After the voters approved I-502 in July 2014, the first recreational marijuana retail stores were opened, adding a new industry to Washington State’s economy. A marijuana DUI in Washington is as severe as a drinking and driving offense. The intricate laws of marijuana include zoning for business establishments, possession and purchasing limits, air quality regulations, and more.

Below are more of Washington State laws and regulations regarding marijuana:

  • Initiative 502 (I-502) – The initiative legalized the production, possession, consumption, purchase, and distribution of marijuana. Nevertheless, there are restrictions:
    • Age Limits – To be able to purchase or possess recreational marijuana, an individual must be 21 years of age or older. However, there is an exception for persons between the ages of 18 and 21:
      • Individuals between 18 and 21 years of age can be allowed to purchase or possess marijuana at a licensed premise if they are a qualifying patient with an authorization or recognition card.
    • Recreational Purchase & Possession Limits – Adults that are 21 years and older can purchase and possess the following amount of marijuana:
      • 1 ounce – Usable “bud” or marijuana harvest flower
      • 16 ounces – Marijuana-infused edibles in solid form
      • 72 ounces – Liquid Form
      • 7 grams – Marijuana Concentrate
    • Medical Purchase & Possession Limits – A qualified patient with a recognition card can purchase marijuana from a licensed retailer with a medical endorsement. Recognition cardholders have restrictions on the amount of cannabis they can purchase and possess:
      • 3 ounces – Usable “bud” or marijuana harvest flower
      • 48 ounces – Marijuana-infused edibles in solid form
      • 216 ounces – Liquid Form
      • 21 grams – Marijuana Concentrate
    • Purchasing & Selling – Marijuana can only be sold and purchased at state-licensed stores.
    • Public Consumption – It is illegal to consume cannabis products and smoke marijuana in front of the general public and in public areas. See SMC 12A.20.100 and RCW 69.50.445
    • Driving Under the Influence – It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis if you have five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mL) or more. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is as serious as a drinking and driving offense. Therefore, there are significant legal penalties. See RCW 46.61.502 and RCW 46.61.506
    • Transportation – It is illegal to transport marijuana outside Washington State.
    • Workplace – Initiative 502 does NOT address the topic of using or testing for marijuana in the workplace. Therefore, Washington State laws regarding the employer’s rights to enact drug policies did not change. In addition, marijuana is illegal under federal law, as a result, federal regulations can prohibit and demand testing for marijuana.
  • RCW 46.61.502(1)(b): Driving Under the Influence – A person is considered to be guilty of driving under the influence of “intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug” if the person is driving the vehicle within Washington State and has a THC concentration of five nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mL) or more, within two hours of driving; or
    • RCW 46.61.502(1)(c) – Indicates that the person must be under the influence or affect by “intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug”; or
    • RCW 46.61.502(1)(d) – Indicates that the person must be “under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, and any drug.”
    • RCW 46.61.502(4)(b) – The blood sample obtained more than two (2) hours after the allegations of driving under the influence, can be used as evidence against you. Also, a person who has a THC concentration of five nanograms per milliliter of blood or more is in violation of (1)(b). Furthermore, if the THC concentration is above 0.00 it can be used as “evidence that a person was under the influenced of or affected by marijuana,” therefore, in violation of (1)(c) or (1)(d).
  • RCW 46.20.308(2)(a): Test Refusal – If the driver refuses to take the test, his/her privileges to drive can be either revoked or denied for at least a year.
  • RCW 46.20.308(2)(b): Test Refusal – A refusal to take the test may be used as evidence in a criminal trial.
  • RCW 46.20.308(2)(c)(i): Implied Consent – In Washington State, any persons who operated a motor vehicle is “deemed to have given consent” and agreed to the provisions of RCW 46.61.506. Therefore, a driver has given consent to a test or tests of his or her “blood or breath,” if the officer has “reasonable grounds to believe” that the driver was under the influence. In addition, after the blood test is “administered and the test results indicate” that the THC concentration is above 5.00 ng/mL, and if the person is twenty-one or over, their “driver’s license, permit, or privilege to drive” can be suspended, revoked, or denied for at least ninety (90) days.
  • RCW 46.61.504: Physical Control of Vehicle Under – A driver can be charged with physical control if he/she is under the influenced or affected by marijuana after the time of being in physical control of the vehicle. Being in “physical control” of the vehicle can mean that the driver is in the backseat, passenger seat, or the car engine is on.
  • RCW 46.61.506: Evidence – The law states that upon civil trial or “proceeding arising” from allegations that a driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, with a THC concentration of less than 5.00 ng/mL, “it is evidence” that can be used to determine whether the individual was under the influence.

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If you were in an auto accident or truck accident, and suspect the individual to be under the influence, call the police. The officer will create a police report, investigate the scene, speak with the witnesses, and note if there is any evidence of the driver being under the influence. (A law enforcement offer might collect information such as whether there was marijuana found in the possession of the driver.)

A DUI accident is a criminal affair, and thus your personal injury claim might take time. It is crucial to start your claim as early as possible. Injuries from a car, truck, motorcycle, or work accident can be catastrophic. Many individuals are left with burns, disfigurement, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injuries. If you were injured by a driver that was under the influence of marijuana, call the police, seek medical attention, and consult with a skilled lawyer.

Demonstrating Fault

Washington State practices pure comparative negligence. In other words, if the plaintiff is partly at fault for the accident, then the compensation is reduced to reflect the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff. If the driver at fault was under the influence of marijuana, consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is in your best interest.

It can be extremely complex to establish fault on a driver who was under the influence of marijuana. Many studies and results that correlate fatalities and vehicle crashes with marijuana do not explicitly state that cannabis causes the accident. There is no medical certainty of the effects that marijuana might have on the driver because studies show conflicting information. It is important that you get legal consultation and assistance. If you were injured and suspect that the at-fault driver was under the influence of marijuana, contact a police official.

Retaining a knowledgeable attorney can help you in your case. Injuries after a vehicle collision can be severe. Obtaining the help of a legal professional can allow you to recover while they gather the evidence necessary to demonstrate that the other party is at fault.

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Types of Marijuana DUI Accidents

Consuming marijuana is different for every individual. Nevertheless, there are common side effects that studies have proven. For instance, smoking weed can “decrease psychomotor skills,” affect reaction time, and cause difficulties staying “task-oriented.” See Cannabis Effects on Driving Skills and another research study about the changes of the brain seen in occasional smokers.

Below are a few examples of how marijuana can decrease an individuals’ psychomotor skills and cause the driver to become a harm to themselves and others on the road:

  • Anxiety – If the driver is continuously anxious, they might make careless decisions. For instance, they might suddenly break too soon before approaching a stop sign. Another example is when the driver might fail to adjust their speed accurately to the current traffic conditions. Therefore, they become a hazard to him/herself and others on the road. The driver can cause a head-on collision, rear-end, and other accidents.
  • Self-Oriented Mental Activity – The driver is constantly having random thoughts, cannot perform well, and is distracted.
  • Perception of Time – Drivers under the influence of marijuana might have a distorted perception of time. For example, they might not be able to stay on their lanes properly, adjust themselves, while maintaining a safe distance and a constant speed.
  • Forgetfulness – While on the road they might forget basic safety skills such as signaling when you are making a turn, yielding when necessary, etc.

Common Consequences of a Marijuana DUI

The mandatory penalties of a marijuana DUI arrest in Washington are essentially similar to an alcohol-related offense. The penalties vary depending on a multitude of factors like the individual’s criminal history (i.e., if it is the driver’s first, second, or third offense).

Below is a list of some of the penalties an individual may face when charged with Marijuana DUI:

  • Imprisonment – A minimum of 24 hours up to 364 days. See RCW 46.61.5055(1)(a)(i)
  • Fines – A minimum of $350 and no more than $5,000. See RCW 46.61.5055(1)(a)(ii)
  • Driving Privileges – A persons’ driver’s license or privilege to drive can be taken away for a minimum of ninety (90) days and up to four (4) years. See RCW 46.20.308(2)(c)(i); RCW 46.61.5055(9)(b)(iii)
  • Mandatory Drug Program – A minimum of ninety (90) day period of 24/7 “sobriety program monitoring” up to one hundred twenty (120) day period. See RCW 46.61.5055(1)(a)(i) – (b)(i)
  • Probation – If it is the first offense the period of probation is two (2) – five (5) years.
  • Criminal Record – The offense creates a criminal record.
  • Insurance – Your insurance rates might increase if convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana.

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Additional Resources

Traffic Safety Impacts of Marijuana Legalization – The information from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) analyzes fatal crashes, arrests, and usage by drivers in Colorado and Washington State. GHSA demonstrated a correlation between the legal sale of marijuana and the proportion of the THC-positive drivers.

Traffic Safety Facts – The U.S. Department of Transportation provides statistical information on traffic-related crashes caused by specific types of drugs. It also shows data on the percentage of drug types and classes that drivers were positive for. THC (Marijuana) was the “drug most frequently used by drivers.” In addition, marijuana has been proven to impair “psychomotor skills, divided attention, lane tracking, and cognitive functions.” Although marijuana has been detected in drivers that were involved in accidents, the role of cannabis in crashes “remains less clear.”

Washington Initiative 502 (I-502) – Follow the link to view a PDF of Washington’s Initiative 502. The initiative was passed by voters on November 2012. Various departments and agencies were directed with specific responsibilities. For example, the Washington State Department of Health must implement media-based education campaigns for adults and youth, provide a public health hotline, and much more. In addition, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) ensures compliance with I-502.

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Attorney for Cannabis DUI in Whatcom County, Washington

Marijuana use will continue to expand, and the laws will adapt to the changing industry. If you or a loved one were injured in a motor vehicle accident and suspect that the driver was under the influence, seek medical assistance for your injuries. It is imperative to retain a legal professional to help you seek compensation for your damages. Being in a car accident can leave an individual with injuries such as whiplash, burns, broken bones, or worse. At PNW Trial Lawyers, our attorneys have experience in building and executing strong cases. Entrusting our attorneys with your personal injury claim can make a difference. We take pride in providing our clients with guidance, resources, representation, and our attention.

Contact us at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation. Our firm serves clients in Bellingham, Everett, Mt. Vernon, Anacortes, and the surrounding areas of Whatcom County, Skagit County, and Snohomish County.