Attempting to make marijuana laws resemble alcohol DUI laws, a new Washington State law will ban open containers of marijuana in vehicles starting on September 26, 2015   That means loose joints, open bags of bud or partially consumed packages of marijuana-infused edibles will need to be kept in a vehicle’s trunk or behind its rearmost row of seats to avoid violating the new law.  The law also prohibits the smoking or ingesting of marijuana while in a vehicle on any public roadway.  House Bill 1276 makes several changes to the state’s impaired driving statutes. It restores the state Department of Licensing’s ability to automatically suspend a person’s driver’s license if a blood test shows he or she is legally impaired by marijuana.

The law is in line with current statutes that prevent open containers of alcohol in a vehicle.  The passage of Initiative 502 at the end of 2012 legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Washington. Even though the law prohibits smoking marijuana in public view.  The legislature had been pushing for a measure to also ban the use of marijuana in vehicles.

Having open marijuana in a vehicle will make it easier for police officers to develop probable cause to arrest a person for suspicion of DUI.  Open marijuana in a vehicle will also make it easier for prosecutors to charge driving under the influence (DUI) offenses related to use of marijuana and drugs.   You can be convicted of DUI, if you have .05 nanograms or greater of THC in the blood. Those who are convicted face the same DUI penalties as one convicted of alcohol DUI.

However, a skilled criminal defense attorney can attempt to suppress certain evidence including marijuana found in a vehicle.  This can lead to reduced or dismissed DUI charges.  If you have any questions, please contact Jeff Burleson at Burleson Law, PLLC

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