Driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime in Colorado. A driver is under the influence when he or she is substantially incapable of exercising the physical or mental control necessary to safely operate a vehicle. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301.)
This article explains the penalties imposed for DUI violations, but other laws regarding marijuana possession may also apply to passengers and drivers. Also, while Colorado allows medical marijuana use under limited circumstances, it is still a crime to drive after such use if the driver’s mental or physical faculties are impaired.
For detailed information on marijuana laws in general in Colorado, see Colorado Marijuana Laws.
To learn how Colorado regulates medical marijuana, see Medical Marijuana Laws in Colorado.
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
It is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, other drugs, alcohol, or a combination of substances. Habitual drug users are also prohibited from driving vehicles in Colorado. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301(1)(a),(b)&(c).) It is not a defense to these laws that a violator is a registered medical marijuana user. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301(1)(e).)
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence (Adults)
Violations of this law are a misdemeanor. A judge may suspend the violator’s driving license, and must impose the following penalties, which vary according to whether it’s a first or subsequent conviction. (Alaska Stat. Ann. § 28.35.030.)
- First convictions. Violators will face nine months of license suspension, between five days and one year in jail, a fine of between $600 and $1,000, and between 48 and 96 hours of public service. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-2-125.)
- Second convictions. Violators will face 12 months of license suspension, between ten days and one year in jail, a fine of between $600 and $1500, and between 48 and 120 hours of public service. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-2-126.)
- Third and subsequent convictions. Violators with two or more previous convictions will face 24 months of license suspension, between 60 days and one year in jail, a fine of between $600 and $1500, and between 48 and 120 hours of public service. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-2-127.)
- Third or subsequent convictions within seven years. In addition to the penalties just described, violators who commit a third or subsequent offense within seven years of two or more prior offenses, may face a mandatory five year license revocation under Colorado’s habitual traffic offender statute. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-2-202.)
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence (Minors)
Minors younger than 21 will face three months of license suspension for a first offense, six months for a second offense, and one year for third and subsequent offenses. Minors will be fined $100 for first offenses, and will have to serve up to 24 hours of public service. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1307.) Minors younger than 18 who have been convicted once or more of DUI related charges will have their subsequent violations handled in juvenile court. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301(8).)
A DUI offense involves a driver who is substantially incapable of exercising the physical or mental control necessary to safely operate a vehicle. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301.) However, drivers may still break the law if their driving was affected by the drugs (or alcohol) to even the slightest degree. Impaired driving includes, for example, a driver who is less competent that he would have been without the presence of alcohol or drugs in his body.
- First convictions. Violators will not face license suspension, but will be subject to between two and 180 days in jail, a fine of between $200 and $500, and between 24 and 48 hours of public service.
- Second and subsequent convictions. Violators will face the same penalties listed for second, third, and subsequent convictions listed above for DUI convictions. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301.)
Alcohol Treatment Programs
A violator may sometimes reduce a jail sentence, fine amount, and public service hours by agreeing to take part in an alcohol treatment program. However, the license suspension penalties usually cannot be changed or reduced.
Colorado law presumes that every driver has consented to a blood, breath, saliva, or urine test when pulled over by a police officer who has probable cause to believe the drive is driving under the influence. Refusing to take such a test is admissible in court, and is also grounds for license suspension. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301.1.)
An Important Note on Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related driving offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse.