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Marijuana and OWI Charges

Posted on in Operating While Under the Influence

Marijuana and OWI ChargesYou can be charged with OWI in Wisconsin any time you operate a motor vehicle with a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in your blood. Wisconsin is therefore known as a “zero tolerance” state when it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana.

How and under What Circumstances Do the Police Test for Marijuana Use?

When there is suspicion of drugged driving, Wisconsin police test for Delta-9-THC, an active ingredient in cannabis, which passes through the body much faster than other inert metabolites of cannabis. If at the time you were pulled over and tested positive for cannabis use, you had a valid prescription for marijuana, then you can raise that as an affirmative defense. Otherwise, however, there is a strict liability standard, even if what is in your system was from use several hours or days prior.

Any person who operates a motor vehicle in Wisconsin is deemed to have given non-expressed consent to one or more tests of their breath, blood, or urine for the purposes of determining the presence or quantity of alcohol or drugs in the operator's body. As such, you cannot refuse a police officer if you are asked for a test of your breath, blood, or urine after you are pulled over. That means that if you are pulled over, an officer may request you to provide a breath sample for preliminary screening, and then use the result to decide whether to arrest you for OWI. In order to make motorist submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT), there must be the same level of probable cause as an arrest for OWI requires.

Obviously a PBT is not very scientific, and the results are therefore not admissible in any subsequent legal proceeding, except to show probable cause for the arrest, or to prove that the officer properly requested a further chemical test. If you refuse to submit to chemical testing, your license will be suspended automatically for a year beginning at the moment of refusal. This decision to suspend your license can be appealed, but it must be filed within 10 days. If you refuse the chemical test, you may also be ordered to comply with an assessment and driver safety plan, and to participate in a drug substance abuse assessment or treatment plan.

What Are the Penalties Facing Those Convicted of OWI?

If you are convicted of drugged driving due to marijuana use, the first offense is a misdemeanor with a fine between $150 and $300. For a second offense that occurs within 10 years of the first, there is a fine between $350 and $1,100, imprisonment from five days to six months, and mandatory license revocation of 12 to 18 months. The penalties continue to dramatically increase from there, and if there is a fourth offense within five years of the first, it turns into a felony with a mandatory minimum imprisonment of at least six months.

OWI charges stemming from marijuana usage can result in serious penalties, especially for multiple violations. If you have been charged with an OWI because of drugged driving and want to know all of the defenses available to you and all of your other options, contact a skilled Milwaukee criminal defense attorney today.





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