Driving Under The Influence of Marijuana – California Vehicle Code 23152f
One big thing that I see happening as things shift in the law and it's a different time is that a lot of people are getting arrested for marijuana DUI. They don't even have any alcohol in their system, and because marijuana has now been legalized in California, people just figure they can just smoke and drive and it won't matter. Driving under the influence of drugs is covered under California Vehicle Code 23152f.
What they don't realize is that the police are looking to arrest people who are smoking marijuana and driving and can't safely operate a motor vehicle and the prosecutors are also looking to prosecute people.
What they've done is they've tried to figure out a way so they can measure the person's THC level to see how much marijuana they've smoked in order to be able to combat the argument that people make that yes, THC stays in your system for a long time, so even though I have THC in my system, I'm not under the influence of marijuana, and therefore, you can't get me for a DUI.
Police Seeking Evidence of Marijuana Use During Traffic Stop
Of course, the prosecutors and law enforcement officers realize this argument. They understand it all too well and they know that people are going to make the argument. So, the types of things they're looking for when it comes to these marijuana DUI's is, does it smell that you've recently smoked marijuana.
For example, if they're pulling you over in a car, they're going to smell the inside of the car. They're going to check you as a person to see if they can sees signs of an individual who has smoked marijuana, and then what they'll do — and this is where they have the most effective evidence — is they will get a drug recognition police officer involved in the case and that individual will run you through a bunch of tests to determine whether or not you have in fact smoked marijuana and if you're still under the influence of marijuana.
The key thing they're looking for in these marijuana DUI's is whether you can safely operate a motor vehicle. So, for alcohol they have all of their field sobriety tests, they also have the same type of field sobriety tests for drugs, like marijuana and this is where this drug recognition is going to come in.
They will do their best to try to figure out, number one, whether you're under the influence of marijuana versus just having it in your system because you smoked it in the past, and number two, they're going to be looking at what is this person's reaction time? Could they actually drive a car safely?
The reason they're doing that is because they know in a defense for a marijuana DUI, the defendant is going to hire an attorney and that attorney is going to try to challenge the police in relation to whether or not they've actually proven that the person can't safely operate a motor vehicle.
Because this is different than alcohol, where you have that presumption that if you're a .08 or greater it's presumed that you can't safely operate a motor vehicle. It's a little bit more difficult in marijuana.
They are starting to get more sophisticated in the tests so they can measure the level of THC in your system, and I think that at some point, they're going to have to put a level in relation to being similar to the .08 — what level would you have to be under the influence of marijuana in order to be determined to be driving under the influence for purposes of trying to convict you for a marijuana DUI. So, that's coming down the pike.
Penalties for Marijuana DUI in California
As far as punishments go for marijuana DUI's, it's very similar to alcohol DUI's. They're going to try to make you do an alcohol program. They're going to put you on probation. They're going to fine you. Other punishments that are available to them are Cal Trans, community service, community labor or Narcotics Anonymous programs. If they feel you have an alcohol or a marijuana problem, they will use one of those programs depending on the circumstances.
So, there's all sorts of different things that can be done when it comes to these marijuana DUI's in order to punish you. The prosecutors and judges see them the same as an alcohol DUI in that the person is under the influence of something and they're a danger on the road and they need to protect the public from that particular individual.
It's interesting because it's not just marijuana that they are using to make the argument that the person can't safely operate a motor vehicle. It's other drugs as well.
People even taking prescription medication and driving a motor vehicle — getting in an accident for example — and the police are blaming it on that prescription medication and saying the reason the person got in the accident is because the person cannot safely operate a motor vehicle.
So, if you've got a DUI your best bet is to find an attorney who has done these cases before in the jurisdiction where your case is pending and can get a game plan together for you pretty quickly so that you can be successful.