“Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in Montana – but can I get a DUI?”
Just because something is legal to consume, doesn’t mean you can drive while under the influence of it. Just like alcohol is legal to drink, excessive consumption beyond the legal limit leads to a DUI.
The same applies to marijuana, THC, and even prescription medications in Montana. Let’s take a closer look at the new Marijuana laws in Montana, how they impact you, and why more DUI charges may be the result.
Montana DUI laws
The law in the state of Montana is that you cannot take any type of drug and then drive if that drug impairs your ability to safely operate the motor vehicle. Despite marijuana becoming legal to recreationally use, you can still get in just as much trouble in the form of a DUI as you can with alcohol or any other drug.
So what are the penalties for a marijuana DUI?
The penalties for a marijuana DUI are exactly the same as any other DUI.
DUI is an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, it is not specific to alcohol.
Under Title 61, Chapter 8, Part 4 of the Montana Code, the specific crimes are listed for every type of DUI. A marijuana DUI is defined by M.C.A. § 61-8-411. It is not the marijuana that is actually illegal, it is the active THC or Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) chemical that is utilized to make it a crime.
The bottom line is that driving under the influence of marijuana is legally treated the same as the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Significant and permanent penalties can affect your future if you are convicted of DUI — regardless of the cause.
Have you been charged with marijuana DUI in Montana?
The single most important information I can give you is this: Very few defense attorneys know how to properly defend a THC DUI charge.
You MUST find one that has significant experience with blood testing at the crime lab and knows how the Government has to prove their case. At the Judnich Law Office, we have taken the time and expense of specific defense training regarding THC and marijuana DUI defense to ensure our clients receive the absolute best DUI legal representation possible in Montana.
How is a THC DUI proven in court?
Unlike an alcohol DUI, a DUI charge based upon THC content or “Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol” can only be measured currently via a blood test.
There are currently no roadside tests where an officer can test you for THC levels.
So, that means, the only way the government can properly prove this case against you is to get blood from you and then properly test it. Under current law, the only way for the government to get your blood is for you to voluntarily agree to let them have it. If you refuse to let them have your blood, it is extremely difficult for the government to prove this type of case. In some circumstances, the government may be able to obtain a warrant to forcibly draw your blood, even if you refuse to give it to them.
If the government does test your blood, that is when knowledge and science really factor into the success or failure of your case.
When blood is tested at the crime lab, many things can be tested for and possibly found. When raw marijuana is heated, that creates the THC chemical that produces the ”high effect”. It is the THC that is looked for in the blood, but testing will also potentially find different types of metabolites.
Metabolites are what is left over after the body has metabolized the active THC. The amount of metabolites does not correlate with amount of use, but it is useful in determining if errors have occurred in testing.
There are several types of metabolites that can be identified by testing related to THC. Only the best DUI defense attorneys know what they are and what the difference is between them.
This can make a BIG difference in the outcome of your case.
In Montana, THC DUI is a pure numerical game. If the government has a blood test that shows a whole blood content of 5 ng/ml or more of active THC, that is enough for a conviction. In Montana, we call that a per se level of proof.
Essentially, if a blood test can conclusively prove that level of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol while driving – that is enough for a conviction. However, that proof is not as easy as it may seem.
The government still has to prove that the level of THC was present at the time of driving. That can be difficult since blood is typically drawn up to an hour after the suspect has stopped driving.
There is also a long list of procedures and protocols from the blood draw and testing that must be followed exactly, and if they are not, that could lead to the exclusion of the blood evidence in court. Lastly, the testing itself can lead to falsely high THC readings in the blood if not properly done.
Only the most experienced attorneys that are familiar with Chromatography (how they test blood), can even attempt to figure the scientific side of this crime out to assist your defense.
Schedule a free Zoom meeting with a THC DUI defense attorney
The attorneys at the Judnich Law Office have taken the time and expense of specific defense training regarding THC and marijuana DUI defense to ensure our clients receive the absolute best DUI legal representation possible in Montana.
Contact us today to schedule a free Zoom meeting with one of our expert marijuana DUI defense attorneys.
Marty is a former criminal prosecutor in the Cascade County Attorney’s Office and now uses that experience to defend those accused of crimes. A University of Montana School of Law graduate, Marty focuses his practice on personal injury and criminal defense and is a premier DUI defense attorney. He is also well versed in the insurance claims industry and has negotiated significant settlements with nearly every major insurance company.