Pot legal? You can still get a DUI

By Des Toups,

Shutterstock photo

Voters in Washington and Colorado on Tuesday legalizing recreational use of marijuana, but that doesn't make drugged driving in those states legal.

Both states -- as well as the 17 where medicinal use is approved -- penalize stoned drivers the same way they do drunken drivers.

Washington's ballot measure establishes a concentration of 5 nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of blood as proof of impaired driving. Backers of Initiative 502 say a marijuana smoker who lets several hours pass before getting behind the wheel should fall beneath that standard. But most other states - where marijuana is still considered an illegal substance -- have a zero-tolerance standard.

Among the notable backers of the legalization measures was Peter B. Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance.

A DUI is still a downer

Those who are convicted of impaired driving face major legal and financial issues. CarInsurance.com's " What's Your Limit ?" tool, though geared toward those planning to drink, spells out the state by state penalties for a DUI conviction.

In most states, a driver convicted of a first-offense DUI is required to spend at least some time in jail -- 24 to 72 hours is common. Fines can reach $5,000. You'll lose your license in many places for a year.

You usually must file an SR-22 form -- an insurance company's guarantee to the state that you are carrying the mandatory coverage. The form is cheap, but the fact that you are required to have one is a huge red flag to insurance companies.

At least you won't face a possession charge.

You will, however, have to pay a huge penalty for insurance. Car insurers don't really care what you ingested, only that you have a conviction on your driving record.

You should expect your insurance rates to double for as long as the DUI is on your record; in most states, that's three years.

We ran auto insurance quotes on basic liability and personal injury protection for a 24-year-old woman in Seattle driving a 2005 Honda Accord EX to and from work, with no prior violations. After adding a DUI conviction, the cheapest rate we found rose from $742 a year to $1,608.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Personal Finance Insurance
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