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How police can struggle to prove someone was driving while high

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2023 | DUI |

South Dakota is one of the growing number of states that have at least partly legalized marijuana use. Residents and visitors are allowed to use medical cannabis for nausea relief and other uses.

However, South Dakota’s laws regarding driving while high have not changed. It is still against the law to operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or any other controlled substance or medication with intoxicating side effects. In fact, South Dakota has one of the strictest laws against driving while high. Our zero-tolerance law makes it a crime to drive with any THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, in your system. Even having a trace amount lingering in your body that is no longer making you high can still lead to serious criminal charges if you are caught behind the wheel.

By comparison, both North Dakota’s and Minnesota’s laws are comparable to DUI. It is illegal to drive with enough THC in your system to be under the influence. Either way, proving that a motorist has THC inside them can be challenging for the police.

Proving that a motorist is impaired by cannabis

When a driver is suspected of driving drunk, the police have the breathalyzer test that, if administered properly, can measure the driver’s blood-alcohol content with reasonable accuracy. But there is no roadside breath test device for THC that is as reliable when it comes to measuring impairment. Thus, establishing probable cause for an arrest for driving while high on marijuana generally involves more subjective techniques like field sobriety tests. It is up to the officer and their individual experience and judgment to decide if a motorist has broken South Dakota’s driving while high. Thus, false arrests are far from impossible.

The stakes are high after an arrest for DUI involving marijuana. You could lose your driver’s license, have to pay a huge fine and even spend time in jail, even if you have no prior convictions.