Busted for Driving High in Oregon?

Legalization of marijuana does not make impaired driving legal

By Judy Malmon, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on June 28, 2023

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The legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon has made its use more common. But, as with alcohol, its legality does not make it acceptable or safe to operate a vehicle while impaired.

But while breath tests can measure a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC), impairment from cannabis can be difficult to assess accurately or efficiently. There is no breathalyzer for THC (the intoxicant in marijuana) and even if there was, the drug can affect people very differently.

Under Oregon law, it’s illegal for a person who is “under the influence of” any intoxicating liquor or drug to drive a vehicle. A law enforcement officer may assess the actual impairment of a driver using field sobriety tests or use chemical tests to see if the driver’s blood alcohol level is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Getting Stopped by Oregon Law Enforcement for Impaired Driving

There are many circumstances when a driver may be suspected of impaired driving due to marijuana use, such as:

  • A traffic stop for a moving violation;
  • A stop at a DUI checkpoint; or
  • A stop for a vehicle-related issue, such as a broken tail light.

In any of these circumstances, a police officer may come to suspect the driver is under the influence from smelling or seeing cannabis or drug paraphernalia in the car, or from observing the driving patterns or appearance of the driver.

Any of these can be considered evidence of impairment, giving rise to an officer’s reasonable suspicion.

Testing for an Oregon Drug DUI

A citing officer may perform a field sobriety test, or seek assessment from an officer trained as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) regarding a driver’s state.

A DRE is trained to examine for specific signs of drug-related impairment, and their observations can be used as evidence to support a drug-related DUI charge. However, there is a significant question as to the accuracy of a DRE’s findings, making it critical that you have an experienced DUI attorney assist you if you’re charged with an offense.

If arrested, the driver will be given a urine test or blood test to determine the presence and level of THC metabolites in their system. Under Oregon’s implied consent law, if you refuse to submit to being tested, you’ll face automatic driver’s license suspension.

Disputing Presented Evidence

Because the presence of THC remains in your urine for as much as two weeks after smoking or consuming, and there is no consensus as to what quantity would constitute impairment, the findings of a urine test don’t conclusively show that a driver was under the influence of the drug at the time they were driving.

If you’re arrested for DUI marijuana, having an attorney assist you in challenging the evidence of impairment can make a huge difference to the outcome of your case. An attorney can raise challenges as to:

  • The conclusiveness of any test-related data
  • The manner in which the test itself was conducted and its results handled
  • The appropriateness of the traffic stop
  • Other procedural issues related to your arrest and the evidence presented

Penalties for a DUI for cannabis are the same as a DUI for alcohol. If it’s your first offense, you will be fined a minimum of $1,000. For subsequent convictions, your penalties increase to fines up to $10,000 and/or jail time.

Get an Experienced Oregon DUI Lawyer

If you’re arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, there’s a lot at stake, from loss of driving privileges to criminal charges. Don’t try to navigate Oregon’s DUI laws on your own. Talk to a reputable and experienced Oregon DUI defense attorney

If you’d like more general information about this area of the law, see our DUI/DWI law overview.

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