On behalf of Wade Grimes Friedman Meinken & Leischner PLLC

Driving in Virginia and other aspects of daily living are changing quickly these days. As more states consider legalizing marijuana, people seem to be less inclined to think about the potential serious consequences of its use that haven’t changed.

A recent public health report shows that one out of every nine drivers on the road today would show positive marijuana test results. If the trend continues, experts estimate non-alcohol drugs will become the most common factor in fatal crashes determined to be due to impaired driving.

Although at present there isn’t a standardized police test for on-scene marijuana use, reports are that within about five years, a reliable tool such as the Breathalyzer test for alcohol will be available. As the legalization of pot spreads to other states, the study anticipates highway safety will move to the forefront of the discussion.

For now, public awareness of so-called drug driving is minimal. Reportedly, the difference between drugged driving and drunk driving is only the substance. The arrest possibilities and need for a defense of any charges are the same.

The fatal crash risk is 13 times higher for a driver who has been drinking. For someone under the influence of pot and alcohol, it is 24 times that of a sober person according to the research team. DUI charges may not be the only consequence if a traffic stop reveals evidence of drug use prior to getting behind the wheel. For example, in Virginia, simple marijuana residue can lead to drug possession charges.

People make choices in their lives that have unforeseen consequences. When faced with these issues, a clear understanding of what is involved creates a better chance for a positive end result. A solid, knowledgeable approach to the complex legal aspects that are developing will provide the best defense in any situation.

Source: Newsday.com, “Fatal Car Crashes Involving Pot Use Have Tripled in U.S., Study Finds” Dennis Thompson, Feb. 04, 2014