Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in California
Driving under the influence of marijuana is not what most people think of when they think of driving under the influence (DUI) and drinking and driving. However, DUI also applies to driving while under the influence of marijuana under Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC. DUI marijuana cases can be complicated, however, and can have different issues than a drinking and driving case.
Elements of a DUI Marijuana Charge
In order to convict you of a DUI marijuana charge, the prosecutor must prove two main things: 1) that you were operating a vehicle, and 2) that you were under the influence of marijuana at the time. In order to be considered under the influence, your driving ability must have been impaired by the marijuana so that you could no longer use the same ordinary afforded to a sober person. Unlike alcohol, there is no specific blood content level that constitutes a strict legal limit, therefore other factors may be used to show your driving were impaired.
Many of the factors used to prove a DUI marijuana case include the arresting officer’s testimony about the following:
- Your driving behaviors;
- Results of field sobriety test;
- Your physical appearance, such as red eyes or dilated pupils;
- Your behavior, including rapid breathing, dry mouth symptoms, or slower reflexes;
- The odor of marijuana in the car and on your person.
Many of these factors are subjective and based on personal observance, therefore officers may mistake a person who is able to drive for an impaired person. Furthermore, an officer may exaggerate your physical or mental state in his or her testimony or police report.
Though there is no specific limit for impairment, chemical testing is still regularly offered as evidence that you were under the influence of marijuana. Chemical tests read the level of THC in a person’s system, however THC can remain in a person’s system for many days. Therefore, chemical tests may detect marijuana in a person who has not actually used the drug that day and was not actually driving while impaired. Having a prescription for medical marijuana is also not an automatic defense. So even if you have legally used marijuana for medical purposes in the past several days, you may find yourself facing serious DUI marijuana charges if an officer believes you used marijuana prior to driving.
While DUI marijuana cases may have different issues than an alcohol-related DUI case, the penalties are just as serious. If you are found guilty of DUI marijuana charges, you may be facing probation, suspension of your driver’s license, fines up to $1,000, and even jail time in some cases. For this reason, you should never take DUI marijuana charges lightly and should always seek representation by an experienced attorney.
An experienced DUI attorney knows the possible defenses and complexities of a DUI marijuana case in California and can stand up for your rights in court to avoid any wrongful convictions.
If you are facing any type of DUI charge in Lake, Sonoma, or Mendocino County, do not hesitate to contact Beck Law, PC for help today.