An OWI charge is often associated with alcohol consumption. However, you can also be charged with an OWI for driving under the influence of illegal drugs such as marijuana. In fact, Wisconsin has some of the strictest marijuana tolerance laws while driving in the entire United States.  To put this into perspective, in Wisconsin, you can be charged with an OWI if one nanogram of marijuana is found in your system.  This is the equivalent of slicing one grain of rice into 25,000,000 parts.  One nanogram is the size of just one of those parts.  Whereas, in states where it is legalized, like California or Colorado, the legal tolerance is typically about 5 nanograms.  It is also important to remember that it can take several days for marijuana to clear your system, especially if you are a heavy user.  Learning and abiding by these laws is particularly important in Wisconsin due to the severity of the tolerance regulations.

Despite the fact that recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in numerous states, it still remains illegal in Wisconsin. There ARE several cities (Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Kenosha, La Crosse, Marshfield, Racine, Waukesha and Wausau) in Wisconsin that have made it legal to have a small amount (about 25 grams) of marijuana in your possession but a first possession offense of marijuana in Wisconsin remains a misdemeanor charge, while subsequent offenses result in a felony charge.

How does a Wisconsin OWI involving alcohol differ from a Wisconsin OWI involving marijuana?

When under the influence of alcohol, an individual will face an OWI charge only when their blood alcohol content is at or above the prohibited .08 percent level (for first, second, and third offenses). However, when driving under the influence of marijuana, any detection of the drug in a blood or urine sample results in an OWI charge.  

According to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, blood and urine samples are tested for “any detectable amount” of restricted substances. If any active chemical found in illicit drugs such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC) is present, an OWI charge will be issued. This means that recreationally using marijuana days before driving could result in an OWI if traces of the drug are found in your blood or urine.  

Wisconsin law reiterates this fact, stating, “No person may drive or operate a motor vehicle while having a detectable amount of methamphetamine, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in his or her blood, the defendant has a defense if he or she proves by a preponderance of the evidence that at the time of the incident or occurrence he or she had a valid prescription for methamphetamine or one of its metabolic precursors, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol”.

Proven DUI/OWI Attorneys

If you face an OWI charge, contacting an experienced defense attorney is crucial. Traffic violations could result in fines, revocation or suspension of your license and possible jail time. With more than 30 years of criminal law experience, Waukesha Criminal Defense possesses impactful legal judgement pertaining to OWI law. A seasoned criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in an OWI case.  Contact me to schedule a free consultation.

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