Charges for Marijuana DUI in California
Just like alcohol, it is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. One of the most common drugs that lead to DUI arrests is marijuana. Marijuana is also known by other names like weed, pot, dope, Mary Jane and others. Drug DUI cases can be more complicated than alcohol DUI and can also lead to additional charges if you are found with drugs in your vehicle.
As of 2014, California vehicle code section 23152(e) states:
It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.
This law does not leave a lot of room for argument. Even though many people do not believe that marijuana affects a person's ability to drive, California lawmakers disagree. If you are believed by police to be operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, you will be arrested for DUI. If you caused an injury because of your marijuana intoxication, you will be charged with a violation of California vehicle code section 23153 – DUI with injury.
Marijuana DUI Evidence
Proving a driver is intoxicated by a drug is a bit more difficult than proving alcohol intoxication. First of all, there is no preliminary screening device like the breathalyzer that can check drug intoxication on the roadside. Instead, police rely on your physical condition and look for signs of intoxication like:
- Droopy or blood shot eyes or dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Inability to walk or perform field sobriety tests
- Erratic behavior
Another common indication is the presence of drugs in the vehicle or the smell or marijuana on you or in your car. If police feel that you are intoxicated, you will be arrested on suspicion of DUI. The next step is to have you take a blood or urine sample that will be evaluated for signs of intoxication. Some police officers are specially trained to evaluate suspects for drug intoxication. These officers are known an Drug Evaluation Experts (DRE). DRE officers use a series of tests including:
Speaking with the suspect
Examining pupils and eyes
Performing field sobriety tests like the one leg stand
Examining vital signs like blood pressure and pulse
The ingredient in marijuana that labs look for in order to show intoxication is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This only shows that a person was exposed to marijuana at some point. THC can stay in a person's system for weeks after depending on many factors. There is no way to know when the marijuana that shows up on a test was consumed or at what levels.
California Marijuana DUI Defenses
The good news is that there are a number of defenses that your DUI lawyer can use to fight the charges that you are facing. Some of the tactics that attorneys can use to fight a marijuana DUI charge include:
- Marijuana does not have a significant effect on a person's ability to drive. Many studies have shown that using marijuana in reasonable amounts has little to no effect of how a person is able to react and use their judgment to operate a vehicle. This is important because, even if your lawyer cannot convince a jury that you were not under the influence, facts can show that you may not have been impaired.
- There is no way to know when the marijuana was consumed. THC can stay in a person's body for several days. This means that you could have consumed the drug days before you were arrested after all of the effects have worn off.
- There is no way to know how much of the drug was consumed. Drug tests do not measure the amount of intoxication. Unlike alcohol, which has limits to the amount of alcohol you can consume before you are considered impaired, marijuana is either present in your body or not present. This means that if there is any trace of THC in your body, you could fail the drug test but not be affected at all.
Marijuana DUI Penalties in California
The penalties for a marijuana related DUI are the same as the penalties for alcohol related DUI. A lot depends on your criminal history and if you have had any previous convictions. Another big factor in sentencing is whether any one was injured due to your intoxicated driving. Penalties for 23152 VC and 23153 VC offenses include:
- Jail time
- License suspension
- DUI education classes
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)
If you have been arrested for DUI, call an attorney right away. Our defense lawyers are here to help you fight your charges and walk you through the process. Marijuana related DUI crimes are complicated so it is important to have competent legal assistance. Call our firm right now for a free consultation.