The use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in California. However, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime and can attract harsh legal consequences. When one is faced with such criminal charges, it is recommended to seek professional legal representation to avoid getting severe charges. We at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll in Los Angeles, CA can offer excellent legal services if you are charged with DUI Marijuana.
Legal Explanation of DUI Marijuana in California
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC, one can be arrested and charged for driving under the influence of drugs if one is impaired and cannot render any decisions that a sober person would do under similar circumstances. Therefore, one violates this law if:
- He or she drove a vehicle
- Is under the influence of any drug, which in this case is marijuana
- Cannot execute any reasonable decision, just like a sober person due to mental impairment
The above-stated factors are considered as the elements of the crime and are basically what the prosecutor should prove to prosecute you with DUI marijuana charges. Let's have a look at these elements in detail.
Driving a Vehicle
Based on California DUI laws, driving involves carrying out the usual mandate of operating a vehicle. However, in a DUI marijuana charge, the law enforcement officer can still charge you with this offense even if he or she did not see you driving the vehicle. This proves that the respective person drove the vehicle based on circumstantial evidence, such as sitting behind the wheel.
Although a police officer can use circumstantial evidence such as sitting behind the wheel as proof of driving, it might not be merely enough to prove such fact even if the engine is running. Therefore, the police officer must take note of whether the driver intentionally performed any action and if such measures are necessary to operate the direct course of the motor vehicle.
Under the Influence of Marijuana
Under California laws, driving under the influence of marijuana means:
- That one consumed cannabis
- Had his or her mental abilities impaired and
- Could not execute the kind of caution that a sober person would ordinarily do while in the same circumstances.
The judge or jury should decide whether your prosecutor has proven beyond doubt that you drove under the influence of marijuana to convict you with this charge. In that case, the prosecutor should show the following evidence to prove that one was driving under the influence of marijuana.
- The kind of driving patterns exhibited by the driver such as swerving on the road, or running a stop sign
- The sort of performance that the driver puts in Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)
- Presence of marijuana in your vehicle
- Any evidence showing that you are addicted to marijuana
- Physical symptoms of intoxication such as dilated pupils, red eyes, dry “cotton” mouth, and odor of marijuana.
Please note that the police officer will be forced to take a chemical test to prove further that you were under the influence of marijuana during your arrest. Interestingly, there is no expert agreement on how much marijuana is capable of impairing the mental capacity of a driver. The only chemical test that can be used to determine the presence of cannabis would be a blood test. In that case, the expert will test for THC ( delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main ingredient in marijuana that makes one feel “high” or “stoned.”
The prosecutor can also use testimonies from Drug Recognition Experts to establish your charges and testify that the impairment that you showcased proves that you were under the influence of marijuana.
The only setback with a THC blood test is that the test can take up to a month to show up. This is because of the absorption of THC into the fatty tissues. Therefore, it is hard to prove that one was recently driving under the influence of marijuana to be prosecuted with VC 23152 charges. That's why prosecutors rely on other pieces of evidence to prove that one was DUI marijuana.
Penalties for DUI Marijuana
Driving under the influence of marijuana is convicted, just like any other DUI offense. Therefore, it is considered a misdemeanor unless one is injured, which makes it a wobbler offense.
As a first DUI, the possible penalties that one might face include:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months
- Fines that range between $ 390 to $ 1,000
- Three or nine months of DUI schooling
- Six to ten months of license suspension, which is convertible to a restricted license
For a second DUI marijuana offense, the possible penalties include:
- 96 hour to one year of jail time
- $390 - $1,000 of fines
- 18 or 30 months of DUI schooling
- Suspension of the license for two years which can be converted to a restricted license for a year
For a third DUI marijuana offense, the offender faces possible penalties such as:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for 120 days to one year
- Fines that range between $ 390 - $ 1,000
- Mandatory attendance to a DUI school for thirty months
- Revocation of the driver's license for three years, which is convertible to a restricted license after eighteen months.
If there are any injuries related to DUI marijuana, the court can also charge you with a misdemeanor. In such a case, the possible penalties include:
- five days to a year of imprisonment
- Restitution of all injured parties
- three, eighteen or thirty months of DUI schooling
- License revocation for one to three years.
Felony Punishment for DUI Marijuana
The court might charge you with a felony DUI marijuana under the following circumstances.
- If the driver has three prior DUI charges within ten years
- If the driver caused an accident which resulted in injuries due to cannabis effect
- If the driver has a previous felony conviction within ten years.
The kind of penalties that result from a felony DUI charge include:
- Imprisonment in state prison for sixteen months, two years or three years
- Fines between $ 390 - $ 1,000
- Eighteen to thirty months of DUI schooling
- Revocation of the driver's license for four years.
- Felony probation
Please note that the above-stated penalties only apply if the offender has a prior felony conviction or has had three prior convictions for over ten years. If the driver caused injuries as a result of cannabis impairment, the possible penalties include:
- State imprisonment for 16 months to 16 years
- Fins of $ 1,015 to $ 5,000
- Restitution of all injured parties
- DUI schooling for eighteen months to thirty months
- Revocation of the driver's license for five years
Penalties for Refusing to Take a Drug Test
The refusal to take a chemical test is considered an offense in California. The most common consequence that applies includes an automatic suspension of the driver's license for a year, even if one has not been charged with the DUI marijuana offense.
As soon as the arrestee is convicted with a first DUI offense, the possible enhanced consequences that apply include:
- Inclusion of two extra days of jail time
- Attendance of the California DUI school for nine months rather than the usual three months.
Legal Defense for DUI Marijuana
If you decide to hire an attorney, one should be able to identify relevant defenses that he or she can use in your court trial. Ideally, any DUI legal defense can work in a DUI marijuana case as long as there is enough relation with the drug in question. Some of the legal defense that the attorney can apply are:
Claim that You Had Not Used Marijuana
It takes quite some time for marijuana to metabolite in the body. Therefore, there are high chances of having a negative effect once the tests are made immediately after your arrest. Also, one can challenge positive results in the following basis:
- Claim that there were flaws with the chemical test or the equipment used
- Claim that particular medication such as Protonix ( used for gastrointestinal reflux disease) is responsible for your mental disability or “highness”
Claim that You Used Marijuana, but You are Not Currently High
A chemical test can show that one has used marijuana, but it does not show when it was used. A positive test result might show even after twelve hours of smoking marijuana. However, this does not prove that you were under its effect while you were driving.
Please note, legal marijuana cannot be used as a defense. California's medication laws might allow one to take marijuana but restricts users only to recreation. If one gets impaired as a result of cannabis intake, it does not matter whether one was using it legally or medically but stands to be convicted with DUI marijuana.
Find a Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
Facing criminal charges such as DUI marijuana can lead to possible imprisonment, denegrate your reputation, and lead to hefty fines. This means that one should find a professional defense attorney who is experienced and specialized in this kind of case. We at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll in Los Angeles stands as the best choice when it comes to these cases. Contact us today at 323-467-6400 and let us help you with your case.