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Is Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Illegal in Wisconsin?

Posted on in OWI

drugged driving lawyerThe use of marijuana has become more acceptable in the United States over the past several years. Many people treat this substance the same as alcohol, considering it to be a relatively harmless recreational drug to be used in moderation. However, even though multiple states have made marijuana legal as either prescription medication or a recreational substance, it continues to be illegal in Wisconsin and at the federal level. Drivers in Wisconsin should be aware of the potential consequences they may face if they are arrested for OWI/DUI based on their use of marijuana.

“Driving While High” in Wisconsin

Since marijuana can have intoxicating effects similar to alcohol, those who drive while under the influence of this substance could be pulled over by a police officer and arrested for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). However, there are a few differences between OWI cases involving alcohol and those involving marijuana.

Wisconsin law recognizes a legal limit for the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that a driver can have before being considered intoxicated. If a driver has had one or two drinks, their BAC may be below .08 percent, making it legal for them to drive. However, Wisconsin law does not have a legal limit for marijuana. In fact, the law states that it is illegal for a person to drive with any detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in their blood.

Because of this restriction, a driver may be charged with OWI based on any amount of marijuana in their system. Unlike alcohol, THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes users to experience a “high”) does not leave a person’s system quickly, and it could potentially be measured days or weeks after a person has used marijuana. If a person is arrested for OWI, and a chemical test of their blood or urine shows that they have marijuana in their system, they could potentially face OWI charges, even if they did not experience any effects of the drug while driving.

Marijuana also differs from alcohol in that it is more difficult to detect in a person’s system. While a police officer may ask a driver to submit to a roadside breathalyzer to test for alcohol, they have no equivalent test for marijuana. Because of this, an OWI arrest based on marijuana use will be based on other factors, such as field sobriety testing or an officer’s observations of the signs of marijuana use, such as bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, lack of concentration, or decreased reaction times, as well as the smell of marijuana or the presence of drug paraphernalia in the vehicle.

Contact Our Waukesha OWI Defense Lawyers

The consequences of an OWI conviction are the same, whether a driver was using alcohol, marijuana, or other intoxicating substances. A first offense will result in a driver’s license revocation of six to nine months, as well as a fine of $150 to $300. A second offense within 10 years will result in a prison sentence of five days to six months, a license revocation of 12 to 18 months, and a fine of $350 to $1,100. At Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP, we can help you defend against OWI charges and determine how you can avoid or minimize the potential penalties you may face. Contact our New Berlin criminal defense attorneys at 262-232-6699 to set up your free consultation today.


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