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The Mile-High 420 festival may have been canceled this year, but Colorado law enforcement and Mothers Against Drunk Driving were still out in full force encouraging people to stay at home during the unofficial 4/20 holiday.

Why? Because driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous.

It can also land the user in big legal trouble. Marijuana use may be legal in Colorado but driving while under its influence certainly is not.

Here’s what you need to know about driving under the influence of marijuana on Colorado roads and what can happen as a result.

What Is Driving Under the Influence?

In Colorado, you are considered driving impaired when your active THC level is five nanograms or more. Many people don’t have any idea how to gauge what the active THC level is in their blood before getting behind the wheel of a car — even police.

The crux is that the police do not need to test your blood for THC levels in order to charge you with a DUI (driving under the influence).

Here’s what they do need to charge you:

Evidence of Impairment

An officer in Colorado can base an arrest on observed impairment. Colorado law enforcement officials are required to complete specialized training to detect whether someone is under the influence of alcohol or another substance.

So officer-observed impairment can absolutely count as evidence against you. If they see any open containers, smell marijuana, or find other evidence that marijuana has been consumed, then that counts as evidence of impairment.

Refusal of a Blood Test

Refusing to take a blood test if you are suspected of driving under the influence can also lead to serious consequences. Your refusal allows for the automatic suspension of a driver’s license for up to one year and the installation of an ignition lock device that won’t allow a car to be driven. Some people are also ordered to complete substance abuse therapy and education.

Marijuana in the Passenger Seat

In Colorado, marijuana is also subject to open container laws. Caution should always be exercised when taking marijuana from one place to another.

It’s against the law in Colorado to transport marijuana in the passenger seat of a vehicle if the container is open, the seal has been broken, or if there’s other evidence of that marijuana was consumed. For safety purposes, always transport marijuana in the trunk of the car instead of in the passenger area.

Colorado DUI Penalties

DUIs in Colorado carry with them stiff penalties, including jail time and fines. Penalties are typically assigned based on your history of DUI.

First-time DUI Offender

In general, a first offense DUI charge in Colorado can result in:

       Between five days and one year in jail

       Fines between $600 and $1,000

       Up to 96 hours of community service

       Probation for up to two years

A Second DUI Offense

For a second DUI offense in Colorado:

       Between 10 days and one year in jail

       Fines up to $1,500

       Up to 120 hours of community service

       Up to two years on probation

Repeat DUI Offenders

For any subsequent DUI charges in Colorado:

       Between 60 days and one year in jail

       Fines up to $1,500

       Court-ordered participating in drug driving education and treatment program

       Up to 120 hours of community service

       Probation for at least two years

If someone is arrested for a DUI while a child is present in the vehicle, then child abuse charges are not out of the realm of possibility on top of that DUI.

Denver DUI Attorney

Even though marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado, the potential consequences for using it irresponsibly while operating a vehicle are significant. Your best course of action is to choose not to get behind the wheel of a car — even when celebrating unofficial holidays.


About the Author:

Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases. 




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