Marijuana and DUI: All you need to know
Personally, it seems to me that California is well on its way to legalizing marijuana like Colorado and Washington. Making it legal won’t eliminate all of the legal ramifications that come with using it, though. For instance, a marijuana DUI would be just as likely with legalization as it would be while the drug is still illegal.
The difference between a regular DUI and a marijuana-related one is in the way that the drug is measured. This makes it both easier to be arrested for and easier to fight in court. According to California Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC, the arresting officer must believe that your marijuana use has hindered your “ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.” Basically, the officer has to think you are unable to drive.
Here’s what needs to be proven in a court of law:
- You were operating a motor vehicle.
- You were under the influence of marijuana.
- Your mental abilities were impaired to a point that it affected your decision-making process.
Let’s break this down. Operating a motor vehicle can be as simple as placing the key in the ignition. If you were in the driver’s seat and the key was in, this fulfills part one. Most DUI cases don’t hinge on this particular point, but if you were arrested before starting your vehicle, this could come into play.
The second part is where the subjective nature of a marijuana DUI comes into play. If the officer who has pulled you over suspects that you are under the influence of marijuana or any other drug, they are likely to call in a DRE (drug recognition expert) to determine if you are under the influence. This officer will look for common signs of marijuana use including dilated pupils, a fast heart rate, elevated breathing rate, the smell of marijuana, red eyes, dry mouth, and slowed reaction times. Even though the officer may be an expert, these things are hard to prove in a court of law.
If the DRE determines that you are under the influence, you will be arrested and taken in to the station to be given a blood test. If you have a medical condition that prevents a blood test, a urine test may be taken instead. Both tests have fundamental flaws that make them unreliable as a method of saying you were under the influence at the time of your arrest. They do not indicate when you used marijuana or how much was used. Also, since there are no set levels of intoxication, there is no standard for the court to base its findings on.
If you are arrested in California for a marijuana DUI, you face the following penalties:
- Probation for three to five years
- A minimum of 96 hours of jail time and maximum of six months
- Fines of $390 to $1,000
- License suspension for six months
If you have been arrested for a marijuana DUI, speaking with an attorney who specializes in this area is extremely important. A good attorney can often poke holes in a marijuana DUI case and get your life back on track like nothing happened.
By Ted Burgess