Driving in New Jersey While Under the Influence of Marijuana
The stipulations contained in New Jersey’s statutes that pertain to driving while intoxicated are not restricted to the use of alcohol alone. According to Section 39:4-50 of Title 39, it’s also illegal to drive in the Garden State while impaired by marijuana. If you have been arrested on a New Jersey thoroughfare and are charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, consulting with an experienced criminal attorney may be instrumental in protecting your rights.
How Much Marijuana Makes You Impaired?
The legalization of marijuana grew one step closer for Garden State residents in November 2018 when the state’s Senate and Assembly approved a bill to regulate, tax and legalize cannabis. Driving under the influence of marijuana, however, remains a violation of the state’s traffic code and is complicated by the fact that the applicable statute does not quantify the amount of marijuana that must be found in an individual’s system to presume impairment.
Other states such as Colorado have set legal measurements for establishing marijuana intoxication, and New Jersey may follow suit once the use of recreational cannabis is fully established. In the meantime, New Jersey relies upon the testimonial evidence of arresting officers to establish marijuana intoxication.
State v. Justin Bealor
In July 2002, police detained a motorist named Justin Bealor for weaving across traffic lanes in Cape May County. A 12-pack of beer, which had been ripped open, sat on the back seat of the car, and Mr. Bealor admitted to having had a few beers. During a routine frisk, the arresting officers discovered a marijuana pipe with cannabis residue on Mr. Bealor’s person. Mr. Bealor submitted to two breathalyzer tests and submitted a urine sample. The urine sample showed the presence of active marijuana metabolites. Mr. Bealor was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.
Mr. Bealor’s defense held that in the absence of quantifiable metrics equivalent to the 0.08 percent blood alcohol standard used to establish alcohol intoxication, marijuana intoxication could not be proven except through the testimony of an expert on marijuana intoxication. As the arresting officers were not experts on marijuana intoxication, Mr. Bealor’s defense argued, their testimony was not admissible.
The municipal court disagreed and found Mr. Bealor guilty. The lower court’s decision was appealed, and the Appellate Division of the Superior Court reversed the verdict. In July 2006, the case made its way to the Supreme Court of New Jersey where the defendant’s conviction was reinstated. The Supreme Court concluded that local and state police officers qualify to testify as experts when marijuana intoxication is presumed.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
The relaxation of marijuana prohibitions has drawn renewed attention to establishing standards for drugged driving. In the meantime, however, few consistent legal standards exist. If you’re convicted of a marijuana DUI in the Garden State, you’ll face the same penalties as you might had you been convicted for an alcohol-related DUI. Penalties for a first-time DUI include:
- A fine between $250 and $400
- A jail sentence between 12 hours and 30 days
- Loss of your driver’s license for a three-month period
- A three-year automobile insurance surcharge at an annual rate of $1,000 per year
The penalties are more severe if you’re convicted of a DUI a second time within 10 years of your initial DUI conviction:
- A fine between $500 and $1,000
- A jail sentence between two and 90 days
- A minimum driver’s license suspension of two years
- The installation of an ignition interlock throughout the license suspension and following the resumption of driving privileges
- A three-year automobile insurance surcharge at an annual rate of $3,000 per year
Third-time offenders face harsh penalties if the third offense occurs within 10 years of the second offense:
- A minimum fine of $1,000
- 180 days of jail time
- Up to 90 days of community service
- Suspension of driving privileges for 10 years
- A three-year automobile insurance surcharge at an annual rate of $4,500 per year
- The installation of an ignition interlock
Getting arrested in New Jersey for driving under the influence of marijuana can have a devastating effect on your life. That’s why it’s so important to speak with an experienced attorney who may be able to help you safeguard your future. Contact Denis Driscoll in Parsippany, New Jersey, today at (973) 947-7111.