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Maryland Marijuana DUI/DWI Criminal Defense: “Weed Smell Test” Outlawed

In Maryland, it is a crime to drive while under the influence of alcohol or any sort of drug like marijuana. Up until now, Maryland police officers have been allowed to use what is commonly called the “weed smell test” as a lawful reason to make a traffic stop.

However, as reported here, a new Maryland law has abolished the “weed smell test” as a basis for the police to initiate a traffic stop. See the text of the new law here. The changes will take effect starting on July 1, 2023. After July 1st, police and law enforcement officers can no longer use the “weed smell test” as the ONLY reason to stop a vehicle.

Under Maryland law, to lawfully initiate a traffic stop, the police must have a sufficient reason for making the stop. Legally, this is called a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has recently been committed or is being committed. DUI/DWI is, of course, a crime and prior to the change in law, an officer that smelled the odor of marijuana smoke in a car being driven had enough reasonable suspicion to make the initial traffic stop.

From there, the officer could lawfully make a further investigation. If further investigation uncovered more facts suggesting criminal activity, then the officer could request field sobriety tests, initiate an arrest, search the vehicle, etc.

The new Maryland criminal law also reduces fines for smoking weed in public from $250 to $50 for the first offense and makes other changes.

This new law is “good news” for criminal defendants in Waldorf, Maryland, and in Charles County, MD., but some warnings should be heeded. First, as noted, the law bans the police from making a traffic stop on the basis of ONLY the odor of marijuana. If there are other facts and circumstances that suggest the person involved is driving under the influence, then a traffic stop will be lawful. For example, do NOT think that you can now drive down a street smoking marijuana and blow marijuana smoke out at a passing patrol car. That is TWO FACTS: seeing you smoke what looks like marijuana and the odor of marijuana. That is enough to get you stopped.

Remember, recreational marijuana may be legal now, but driving while smoking marijuana is not. It is like alcohol. It is legal to drink, but not legal to drink and drive.

If you are caught driving while under the influence of marijuana, for a first-offense conviction, the potential jail time is up to one year, there is a potential fine of up to $1,000, your driver’s license can be suspended for up to 45 days, 12 points will be assessed against your license, and, very likely, you will be ordered to complete a drug/alcohol education program. For a second offense, the jail time increases to a maximum of two years of incarceration, and the fine increases to up to $2,000.

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD, Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD 20601.