As of March 31, 2021, New York legalized adult recreational use of marijuana. This legislation could increase tax revenue by $350 million dollars and create 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs. However, it likely will also increase the incidents of New York drivers operating while under the influence of marijuana. This article will explore the laws in New York around driving while high.
New York Marijuana Driving Law
Under New York’s new cannabis law, adults over the age of 21 can use cannabis in public but not while in a motor vehicle. Further, it remains illegal to operate a vehicle in New York while under the influence of cannabis. Impaired driving can result in a charge of Driving While Ability Impaired By Drugs (DWAI) under Vehicle And Traffic Law Section 1192(4). This section states: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle while the person’s ability to operate such a motor vehicle is impaired by the use of a drug as defined in this chapter.” The world “drug” includes cannabis. Section 1192(4-a) prohibits driving while impaired by both drugs and alcohol.
By operating a motor vehicle in New York, you are deemed to have consented to a chemical test of one or more of the following: breath, blood, urine, or saliva, for the purpose of determining drug content (and/or alcoholic content) provided there is reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is under the influence.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in marijuana that essentially is what makes an individual impaired. There is no minimum amount of THC for a charge like there is a certain percentage of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level in regards to drunk driving. Therefore, any amount of cannabis use could result in a charge. With regular use of marijuana, THC can be detectable in blood for up to 7 days. For first-time users, 90% of THC drops after the first hour. However, it is still extremely important to note that the use of cannabis can make you noticeably impaired.
Given the legalization of recreational marijuana, if an officer now pulls you over for a traffic ticket (like expired registration) and he or she smells cannabis in the vehicle, he or she no longer alone has probable cause to search the vehicle for marijuana. Now more than just smell is required. For more information on this, please see this article.
Possible Consequences Associated With A DWAI Offense
There can be serious repercussions for a DWAI offense. For New York Traffic Ticket stops, you normally get points against your license. For drugged driving or DWAI offenses, no points are counted on your license, but there can be a pretty hefty fine and potentially jail time. For these reasons it is still very important to consider hiring a New York DWAI Defense Lawyer to help you see your options with your case. Call Weiss & Associates, PC today at 212-683-7373 or email us at [email protected] today for FREE consultation.
A first offense of DWAI is a misdemeanor and shall be punishable by a fine of $500 to $1,000 and/or up to one year in jail, plus a 6-month revocation of license.
A second offense is a Class E felony. This fine could be between $1,000 to $5,000, as well as going to jail and a one-year revocation of license.
However, under Vehicle And Traffic Law Section1192.2-a(b), also known as Leandra’s Law, if a passenger under the age of 16 is in the car, a drug-related DWAI can result in a felony, even for a first offense. If the passenger under 16 is injured or dies, your felony charge could increase to a Class B felony or Class C felony. The offender can also go to jail for 4 to 25 years.
Under VTL Section 1192(10)(ii), whenever a driver is charged with DWAI, usually that person must attend and complete an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, including any assessment and treatment.
Offenders might have to do drug screenings and/or attend a Victim Impact Program (VIP). Offenders also might have to pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment fee of $250 per year for three years. If the violator refuses to pay, their license could be suspended until the fee is paid in full.
For those who are prescribed medical marijuana, you can still face these charges. Whether you are using cannabis medically or recreationally, if you test positive for use of the drug while driving, you still could face the above consequences.
What happens after you get a DWAI?
If you are charged with DWAI, we recommend that you plead not guilty as this is the only way to possibly obtain a more favorable outcome. Weiss & Associates, PC is dedicated to helping motorists with any type of motor vehicle problems including DWAI cases. Call us to make sure you understand all of your options and rights.
Although it is not required to have a lawyer help fight your case, it is definitely encouraged to seek a firm for guidance on what you can do and if they can help. Weiss & Associates, PC can provide you with free advice. Call Weiss & Associates, PC today at 212-683-7373 or email us at [email protected] today!