Washington’s Marijuana DUI Law and Commercial Vehicles

Washington’s DUI laws were recently amended to include a “per se” marijuana offense, meaning that if a person drives with a THC concentration of 5.0 or higher that person can be convicted of DUI, and/or suffer administrative license consequences.  Although prior to 2013 a driver could be cited for driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol, there was never a particular level set by the legislature that on its own would require a license suspension through DOL.  Now, if a blood test reflects 5.0 or more, no other evidence of intoxication is required, and the DOL can initiate a license suspension proceeding.

There are several interesting twists to the application of the new law.  One is that the laws related to licensing consequences for commercial driving – that is driving IN A COMMERCIAL VEHICLE – were not similarly amended.  Under RCW 46.25.120 and RCW 46.25.090, a license disqualification is based on either 1) refusing the test or 2) an alcohol concentration over .04.  The legislature did not add any provisions permitting administrative disqualifications for tests with positive drug levels.  Although an officer suspecting drugs is authorized to request a blood test under these statutes, there is no mandatory administrative license disqualification unless the person refuses the test or the alcohol concentration is over .04 (.02 for those under 21).

While this is probably a legislative oversight more than anything else, it creates a strange dichotomy in the law whereby there are potentially greater penalties for driving personal vehicles than for driving commercial vehicles.  This remains something to watch for in the future.

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Fury Duarte serves clients in the Seattle area and throughout Washington. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your case, and we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary consultation. You can reach our office in Bellevue by calling 425-643-1606.