In November, Nevada joined a number of states across the country when voters approved Question 2 and legalized the recreational use of marijuana. While the law is considered a victory by many, including criminal justice advocates, it does raise some questions and concerns, particularly when it comes to motorists who get behind the wheel after using marijuana.
In states that have already legalized marijuana and other states that are considering similar measures, there has been considerable debate over marijuana DUIs, including how officers can appropriately and accurately determine if a motorist is too high to drive. The debate has resulted in a legal grey area that impacts many criminal marijuana DUI cases.
Although there are concerns and issues to be addressed when it comes to marijuana DUIs and criminal laws, drivers who are injured in wrecks caused by drivers who may have been under the influence of marijuana, or using marijuana at the time of a crash, still have the same legal right to pursue financial compensation from the at-fault party who caused their wreck.
All motorists are required by law to be reasonable and safe when operating a motor vehicle. When they fail to do so – either by disobeying a traffic law, driving while distracted, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol – they commit an act of negligence for which they can be held accountable. This means victims have the right to file lawsuits and recover compensation for any damages they incurred as a result of another driver’s negligence, including medical bills, property damage resulting from the crash, pain and suffering, and more.
While operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, or while using marijuana while driving, might involve criminal charges for drivers, it is important to note that criminal and civil cases are separate matters. Additionally, the burden of proof in civil cases (preponderance of the evidence) is lower than that used in criminal matters (beyond a reasonable doubt).
Where criminal cases are complicated by the burden of having to show that a motorist is impaired by pot beyond a reasonable doubt, civil cases filed by accident victims need only to prove that a motorist was negligent in some manner, and that their negligence more likely than not caused a crash that injured victims. These civil cases don’t necessarily need to prove a motorist was under the influence at the time of the crash. For example, in some circumstances, marijuana DUI charges may be irrelevant to a case if a driver also ran a red light, failed to yield, or committed some other act that establishes their fault and liability. Still, showing that a driver who caused your crash has been charged with the crime of marijuana DUI can potentially provide leverage in a personal injury case.
Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P. has a proven record of success protecting the rights of victims injured by negligent motorists, including victims who were harmed by impaired drivers. Over the years, our award-winning attorneys have used their experience and resources to recover millions of dollars in compensation for our clients when they needed it most. Our team is readily available to help immediately after your crash, and we encourage you to speak with a lawyer from our firm as soon as you can, as time can be a critical factor in your case.