GanjAmerica: Driving While High – What to Expect If You Get Pulled Over

You’ve taken one toke too many and driving while high is never a great idea. But you drive better when you’re stoned. Or at least, that’s what you think.

After a few swerves and a long pause at the green light, you see red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror.

What happens now?

Regulations may vary depending on where you live, but you should expect the following steps:

  1. You’ll be asked to get out of the car for a sobriety test. You may be asked to walk in a straight line, balance on one leg or follow simple instructions like putting your finger to your nose. If the officer suspects that you’re under the influence, he or she will likely give you a breathalyzer test. Once they’ve ruled out alcohol, they will attempt to rule out medical issues.
  2. Expect to visit the police station – Once the cop has determined that you’re not drunk or under medical duress, he or she will assume you’re stoned. The cop will likely perform a surface-level search of your car to look for drugs or drug paraphernalia.
  3. Plan for a minimum of a 45-minute evaluation – Once you’re at the station, the officers will perform a more thorough evaluation of your physical state. This may include:
    1. Vital signs – The cops will check your vital signs, including your pulse. They may check your pulse more than once if your heart rate measures high to rule out a stress response.
    2. Vision test – Here, they’re looking at pupil dilation. They will shine a light in your eyes to see how your pupils respond. They may also test your ability to follow an object (like the officer’s finger) with your eyes.
    3. Muscle tone tests – This is done to rule out hard drugs like narcotic analgesics that cause flaccid muscles.
    4. Physical signs of drug use – Officers will look for things like a sticky residue on the mouth or hands, heat bumps on the tongue, or injection sites.
    5. Personal interview – This is more about your personal wellbeing than any potential charges at hand. The cops will talk to you about your history with drugs and what brought you to this moment.
    6. Possible blood draw – A phlebotomist may draw blood so they can test for drugs in your system. If they do this, the results typically take weeks.

From here, it is up to the police officers’ assessment and your local laws. If the officers decide that you were driving while impaired, you may face jail time, license suspension and fines.

In Colorado, you cannot drive with more than five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. In this state, you also may not drive with open containers of marijuana. If you are guilty of either of these two things, expect to be prosecuted.

Regardless of where you are, you’ll probably want legal representation if you get pulled over while high. As soon as you’re out of the police station, connect with a reputable lawyer to help walk you through the next steps.

Photo credit: Visit Denver

Guest post by Dianne Sawaya