A Guide to DUID Charges in Colorado

The legalization of recreational marijuana has drawn renewed attention to a previously lesser-known charge—a DUID.Click To Tweet

DUID is short for “driving under the influence of drugs.” Regardless of legalization laws, it is still a crime to operate a car under the influence of marijuana or any other drug that effects your ability to drive. This can also include prescription drugs.

Colorado Drugged Driving Laws

The Colorado Vehicle Traffic Code contains the laws that deal with drugged driving. Section 42-4-1301(1) states that:

  • It is a misdemeanor for any person who is under the influence of…one or more drugs…to drive any vehicle in this state, and it is a misdemeanor for any person who is impaired by…one or more drugs…to drive any vehicle in this state.
  • It is a misdemeanor for any person who is a habitual user of any controlled substance defined in section 12-22-303(7), C.R.S. to drive any vehicle in this state.

These two provisions outline the conditions under which an individual can be arrested for a DUID incident. Colorado has two standards for arresting drugged drivers: impairment and addiction.

Impairment describes the driver’s physical and mental state. If an arresting officer judges your ability to operate your vehicle as diminished because of apparent drug use, you can be considered impaired. Impairment can refer to a decrease in your mental judgement, motor control, or due care in the operation of your vehicle.

In most cases, an officer may infer this from your driving. For example, say you are prescribed a sedative for anxiety. If your medication had a significant sedative affect, your driving ability could suffer. A police officer could pull you over after seeing you run a stop sign or drift outside your lane.

Even if you are prescribed a medication for a condition, the law prohibits you from driving if that medication diminishes your ability to safely pilot your vehicle. The officer might conduct a field sobriety test or a chemical test, and if you failed you could be arrested for DUID.

The law also prohibits certain known habitual users (referred to as “addicts” by the law) from operating a motor vehicle.

DUIDs and Marijuana

DUIDs and Marijuana in Denver

The law mentioned above specifically states that legal use of recreational or medical marijuana is not a defense against accusations of drugged driving.

“The fact that any person charged is or has been entitled to use one or more drugs under the laws of this state, including, but not limited to, the legal or medical use of marijuana shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this subsection.”

Specifically, if THC (the active chemical in marijuana) is detected by a blood test in quantities of 5 nanograms or higher, this can be used as evidence against a driver to argue that they were under the influence of marijuana.

What Drugs are Prohibited under the Law?

Laws against drugged driving specifically prohibit driving under the influence of a “controlled substance.” As you probably figured out from the above example featuring a prescription drug, thouh, this is not limited to wholly illegal drugs like methamphetamines or heroin.

The term controlled substances refers to any substance—drug or chemical component—that is regulated by the government.  In addition to illegal drugs, this includes certain prescription drugs and “toxic vapors.” Toxic vapors, in this instance, refer to inhalants like glue or aerosol spray.

Controlled substances include substances regulated by federal law and state law.  A full list of federally regulated controlled substances can be found on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website.

Again, it’s important to remember that it is not an acceptable defense to argue the driver is legally entitled to use the controlled substance, whether it’s recreational marijuana or a prescription medication.

How Is a DUID prosecuted?

Denver DUID Lawyer

A drugged driver, for all intents and purposes, faces the same penalties as a drunk driver if convicted. For a first offense, this includes a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000. It also includes license suspension for nine months.

There are a number of other fees and penalties that you will face if you are found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs, including treatment, education, and community service.  The Colorado DMV’s website has more in-depth look at the penalties for DUID, DUIs, and DWAI (driving while ability impaired).

Colorado’s progressive marijuana laws should not be cause for you to believe a DUID is a lesser offense, or that the prosecution will go easy on you. You face serious criminal charges and high fines and fees if convicted.  Contact a knowledgeable defense attorney to begin crafting the best possible strategy for your case.

About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standard