With the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use, Ohio has entered a new era in its approach to cannabis. However, this significant change brings challenges, especially in the context of Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI) laws. If you’re new to these developments and wish to comprehend how Ohio can charge you with a marijuana OVI, this guide aims to offer detailed insights.
Additionally, It’s important to consult with a qualified OVI defense attorney in Columbus as soon as possible after being charged to ensure you receive proper legal guidance based on the specific details of your case.
The Legal Landscape of Marijuana in Ohio
Recently effective, Ohio residents aged 21 and over can legally consume or possess cannabis. The law permits the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of adult-use cannabis and 15 grams of extract. Additionally, Ohioans can grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum of 12 per household. However, the legalization of marijuana doesn’t imply unrestricted use, particularly when it comes to operating vehicles.
Medical Marijuana in Ohio
In Ohio, medical marijuana legalization occurred in the past decade, but it wasn’t until recently that the program became fully operational due to delays in establishing regulations. Patients with a physician’s recommendation can obtain a medical marijuana card from the state. This card allows them to purchase marijuana products from dispensaries to treat over 20 medical conditions.
The Impact of Marijuana on Driving
THC, the active component in marijuana, can affect a driver’s ability. It interacts with the brain, potentially causing euphoria, altered perceptions, drowsiness, and decreased concentration and motor skills. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that marijuana use can impair a person’s estimation of time and distance, slow reaction times, and reduce overall vehicle control.
The Four Types Of Marijuana OVI in Ohio
Ohio’s laws regarding Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI) include specific provisions for marijuana-related offenses. The state’s OVI statute (ORC 4511.19) outlines four distinct marijuana-related violations. A driver may face multiple charges from these categories in a single incident, but punishment is typically limited to one offense if convicted.
Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Marijuana
In Ohio, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. This law falls under the broader category of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For a conviction, the prosecution must prove that marijuana influenced the driver to the extent of impairing their ability to drive. This type of charge is often referred to as an “impaired” charge, focusing on the actual influence of marijuana on the driver’s capabilities.
Operating a Vehicle with a Prohibited Concentration of Marijuana
Ohio law prohibits driving with certain levels of marijuana in one’s blood or urine. Defining the illegal concentration as two nanograms of marijuana per milliliter of blood or ten nanograms per milliliter of urine, authorities seldom use this charge because measuring marijuana concentration directly faces challenges caused by its metabolism once ingested.
Operating a Vehicle with a Prohibited Concentration of Marijuana Metabolite
Due to the difficulty of measuring marijuana directly post-ingestion, Ohio focuses on marijuana metabolites—substances produced when the body breaks down marijuana. The law forbids driving with 50 nanograms of marijuana metabolite per milliliter of blood or 35 nanograms per milliliter of urine. This charge, known as a “per se” charge, does not consider whether the metabolites impair driving ability. In Ohio, this includes inactive metabolites, which don’t impact driving skills, yet individuals can still face charges and convictions under this category.
Operating a Vehicle with a Prohibited Concentration of Marijuana Metabolite and Under the Influence
This charge is a combination of the per se and impaired charges. It’s illegal in Ohio to drive both under the influence of marijuana and with a certain level of marijuana metabolite in the blood or urine. The limits are set at five nanograms per milliliter of blood or 15 nanograms per milliliter of urine for metabolites. For this charge, the prosecution must prove both the presence of a prohibited level of metabolites and the driver’s impaired state due to marijuana use.
Consequences of Marijuana OVI/DUI in Ohio
In Ohio, facing charges for Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI) of marijuana carries similar consequences to those for alcohol-related OVI. Understanding these penalties is crucial for anyone navigating Ohio’s legal system.
Penalties for First-Time Offenders
For a first marijuana OVI offense within ten years, individuals can expect a mandatory driver’s license suspension ranging from one to three years. This suspension can greatly impact daily life, affecting the ability to commute to work or school. Additionally, there’s a mandatory jail term, which can be as brief as three days or as long as 180 days, depending on the severity of the offense and the judge’s discretion.
A monetary fine, ranging from $375 to $1,075, is also part of the sentence. This financial penalty and associated legal fees can pose a substantial burden.
Additional Judicial Discretion
Judges in Ohio have the authority to impose further restrictions. These can include issuing restricted (yellow) license plates signaling a DUI/OVI offense to law enforcement and the public. An ignition interlock device, which prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol on the driver’s breath, can also be mandated. However, its application in marijuana cases may vary.
Probation, also known as community control, is another potential consequence for up to five years. While on probation, individuals may have to undergo substance abuse counseling and comply with other conditions established by the court. Designated to prevent future offenses and contribute to the offender’s rehabilitation, these conditions serve a dual purpose.
Escalating Penalties for Repeat Offenders
The penalties become more severe for those who commit additional OVI offenses within ten years. Increased jail time, longer license suspensions, and higher fines are common for repeat offenders. Escalating penalties aims to deter recurrent violations and reflect Ohio’s seriousness in treating repeat OVI offenses.
Secondary Consequences of a Conviction
Beyond the immediate legal penalties, a marijuana OVI conviction in Ohio has lasting secondary consequences. One significant impact is creating a permanent public record of the conviction, which cannot be sealed or expunged. This record can affect employment opportunities, professional licensing, and personal reputation in the long term.
Defense for Medical Marijuana Card Holders
Ohio law offers an affirmative defense for DUI/OVI per se charges. This defense states that the prohibition does not apply per se if the controlled substance was legally prescribed and ingested according to the health professional’s directions. However, there is uncertainty regarding this defense about medical marijuana, as it is typically recommended rather than prescribed. This defense does not extend to impaired DUI/OVI charges. Operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, regardless of compliance with medical directions, remains illegal.
Tests Used in Ohio Marijuana OVI Cases
Ohio uses a range of tests to determine if a person is driving under the influence of marijuana. These tests provide evidence for OVI cases and typically fall into three categories: field tests, drug recognition evaluations, and chemical tests.
Field Tests for Marijuana OVI
When a police officer suspects a driver of being under the influence of marijuana, they often start with field tests. The most common are the Walk And Turn, One Leg Stand, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Standardized and linked to blood alcohol concentration, Law enforcement conducts these tests, but their correlation with marijuana impairment remains undetermined.
Officers may also conduct non-standardized tests such as finger-to-nose, finger-touching, time-estimation, partial alphabet, and backward-counting tests. Lack of standardized criteria and lack of scientific linkage to marijuana impairment. Observations like a lack of eye convergence or dilated pupils, which can be indicative of marijuana use, are also part of the assessment. Still, they don’t directly correlate with the level of marijuana metabolite in the system. As of now, Ohio does not commonly use portable chemical tests to detect marijuana metabolites in oral fluids.
Drug Recognition Evaluations
Post-arrest, a more comprehensive evaluation may be conducted at a jail or police station by a certified Drug Recognition Evaluator. This 12-step examination includes checking the driver’s vital signs, muscle tone, eye movements, a breath test, and collecting a blood or urine sample. These evaluations provide a detailed assessment of a driver’s state and potential drug use.
Chemical Tests for Marijuana OVI
The officer often requests a blood or urine sample in the investigation phase. This sample requires the driver’s consent, a search warrant, or certain difficult circumstances. Technicians at a laboratory conduct chemical tests on the samples, typically using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, to measure the level of marijuana metabolite.
The Ohio Department of Health sets strict standards for these chemical tests. If the tests don’t meet these standards, their results are not admissible in court. Challenging even admissible results is possible, as various factors can impact the accuracy of the test results. These potential errors in testing can become a significant aspect of the defense in a marijuana OVI trial.
The Risk of Conviction and the Option to Refuse Testing
This prolonged detection period in urine tests raises the possibility of facing OVI charges long after marijuana consumption. If you undergo a urine test during a traffic stop and it comes back positive, you can be charged with an OVI, regardless of when you last used marijuana.
You can refuse a urine test in Ohio, but this decision leads to an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license. Some legal advisors recommend refusing the test to avoid providing evidence that can lead to an OVI conviction.
Understanding the Exceptions to Marijuana Legalization in Ohio
Ohio’s decision to legalize marijuana has been a significant shift in policy, offering residents new liberties regarding cannabis use and possession. However, this statewide legalization does not uniformly apply across all areas within the state. There are notable exceptions where possessing marijuana remains illegal, and understanding these can prevent unintended legal consequences.
One of the most prominent areas where marijuana possession continues to be illegal is on federal property. This includes national parks, federal courthouses, military bases, and other federally owned or operated facilities. Federal law, which classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, overrides state laws in these jurisdictions. As a result, even if you legally possess marijuana under Ohio law, you can face federal charges for possession of these properties.
Rental Properties and Private Landlords
Another area to consider is rental properties. Landlords in Ohio have the right to set rules regarding the use and possession of marijuana on their properties. This means that if a lease agreement stipulates a prohibition against marijuana, tenants must adhere to these rules despite the state’s legalization. Violating such a clause can lead to eviction or other legal actions from the landlord. For renters to thoroughly review their lease agreements and understand their landlord’s stance on marijuana possession and use within the rental property.
Educational Institutions and Workplaces
Educational institutions and workplaces are other areas where restrictions on marijuana possession might apply. Many schools, colleges, and universities adhere to federal guidelines, particularly those that receive federal funding. As such, they may enforce rules prohibiting marijuana on their premises. Similarly, employers in Ohio might have policies against the use and possession of marijuana in the workplace, even for medicinal purposes. Employees should be aware of their company’s drug policies to avoid any potential disciplinary action.
Defending Against Marijuana DUI/OVI Charges in Ohio
When faced with a marijuana DUI/OVI charge in Ohio, there are defenses available. These defenses can help contest the charges and potentially mitigate the consequences.
Challenging the Legality of the Traffic Stop and Arrest
One key area of defense revolves around the right against illegal seizures. This means examining the legality of the initial traffic stop, the continued detention for investigation, and the arrest itself. If any of these steps were not legally justified, it can form the basis of a strong defense. For instance, If the traffic stop occurred without reasonable suspicion or the arrest was made without probable cause, the evidence gathered can be deemed inadmissible in court.
Questioning the Reliability of Tests
Another line of defense relates to the tests used in DUI/OVI cases. Contesting the accuracy and administration of field sobriety tests, Drug Recognition Evaluations and chemical tests (blood or urine) is possible. If the field sobriety tests were not conducted properly, according to standardized procedures, challenges to the results might arise. Similarly, if there were issues with how blood or urine samples were collected, stored, or analyzed, this can affect the validity of the test results.
The Burden of Proof on the Prosecution
In these cases, an important aspect of defense is the prosecution’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Meeting this high standard by exploiting any weaknesses or inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case can cast doubt on the defendant’s guilt.
Making Decisions in a Marijuana DUI/OVI Case
Facing a marijuana DUI/OVI charge requires careful decision-making. At the first court appearance, the accused must enter a plea: Guilty/No Contest or Not Guilty. Pleading Guilty or No Contest means accepting the conviction and its associated consequences. On the other hand, a Not Guilty plea is a decision to contest the charges and potentially improve the outcome.
Given this decision’s significant and long-lasting ramifications, consulting a lawyer is advisable. Seeking counsel from a lawyer with experience in marijuana DUI/OVI cases, as they can provide guidance tailored to the specifics of the case.
Contact an Ohio OVI Lawyer
Ohio’s legalization of marijuana has introduced new freedoms but also new responsibilities, particularly concerning OVI laws. While enjoying the legal use of marijuana, always remember that operating a vehicle under its influence is illegal and carries significant legal consequences.
If uncertainty ever arises, seeking advice from a lawyer can clarify your obligations under Ohio’s evolving marijuana regulations.