Do drunk driving laws apply to driving under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 15, 2020

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Driving under the influence of any substance is a serious offense in any state. Unlike alcohol, it is more difficult to prove that a driver was under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs while operating a vehicle because they can remain in the driver’s system up to 30 days. Drunk driving laws also apply to marijuana and controlled substances, but the application of these laws varies by state.

Typically, first time offenders charged with driving under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs receive the same sentence as those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. However, state laws differ in their application of drunk driving laws to marijuana and prescription drugs. For example, the state of Washington applies drunk driving laws differently to drivers suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs by requiring a blood analysis instead of a breath test to prove impairment while driving. Some states, like Arizona have much harsher punishments for driving under the influence of drugs by automatically revoking the driver’s license for a year if convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, but only suspend licenses for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Drivers charged with driving under the influence, regardless of whether it is alcohol, marijuana, or legal prescription drugs should consult an attorney immediately to determine how the state in which the offense occurred prosecutes the charge of driving under the influence.

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