With more and more states voting to allow medical marijuana sales in cities and towns across the country, the opportunity for DWI and drug DUI arrests involving the possession of weed (or cannabis) has become much more real. Because of the increasing use of hash as a medicinal drug, the lines are getting blurred between what is and what isn’t legal. Pot, as many will point out, is still illegal without a doctor’s prescription in states that allow it, but even in those that do, local laws may leave legitimate users feeling vulnerable.
It’s no secret that regardless of whether or not a state has passed medicinal marijuana laws, law enforcement agencies will still be pulling motorists over who may possibly be impaired due to driving while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) such as marijuana or cocaine.
Regardless of whether a driver is impaired due to smoking pot (drug DUI), or because of alcohol consumption (DWI), or just falling asleep behind the wheel, a police officer will still be looking for those telltale signs of possibly erratic driving. Using a simple traffic or defective equipment offense as a justification for the traffic stop, a patrolman may then notice that the driver is exhibiting impaired behaviors.
Marijuana is one of the more common drugs in use around the Garden State and as such arrests for marijuana possession in a motor vehicle are relatively common occurrences. Possession in a vehicle is a chargeable offense that usually requires the services of a qualified New Jersey drunk driving or DUI defense lawyer.
The questions that anyone charged with marijuana possession in a vehicle should ask themselves include the following:
- Did the patrolman have probable cause prior to stopping me?
- Did the officer conduct a proper search of my car (or my person)?
- Can a municipal prosecutor actually prove possession or control of the marijuana discovered by the police?
- Did the police maintain a proper “chain of custody” and testing of the alleged marijuana?
In proving possession, there are two types: actual and constructive. When a prosecutor wants to prove an individual was involved in the actual distribution of pot, it is essential for him to establish possession of the marijuana in question. It’s critical to understand that actual marijuana possession is quite literally the physical control of the substance combined with the so-called awareness that the substance in question was, in fact, pot.
Conversely, constructive possession constitutes an individual being aware that he or she is in the presence of the drug — including the intention of possessing and the capacity to control the substance. Any individual accused of this must have the power and purpose to exercise control of the marijuana to be in constructive possession.
Remember that being arrested for possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle can result in a mandatory two-year suspension of one’s driver’s license. Also, unlike a DWI-related suspension, marijuana possession in a car or truck means complete and total exclusion from operating a motor vehicle. Anyone in such a situation needs to understand that possession in a car has no special provisions under the law — specifically, there is no work license or conditional driver’s license in cases involving marijuana. This is in addition to any fines, assessments and other surcharges that may also be attached to a conviction involving marijuana possession in a motor vehicle.