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 many people are getting arrested for marijuana DUI.
They don't even have any alcohol in their system. Because marijuana has now been legalized in California, people figure they can smoke and drive, and it won't matter.
Driving under the influence of drugs is covered under California Vehicle Code 23152f. They don't realize that the police are looking to arrest people smoking marijuana and driving who can't safely operate a motor vehicle. 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 to be able to combat the argument that people make.
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, so 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 know that people will make the argument. So, the type of thing they're looking for when it comes to these marijuana DUIs 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 vehicle's inside.
They're going to check you as a person to see if they can see signs of an individual who has smoked marijuana, and then what they'll do — and this is where they have the most compelling evidence — is they will get a drug recognition police officer involved in the case.
And that individual will run you through many 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 DUIs 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 will 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 drive a car safely?
They're doing that because they know in defense of a marijuana DUI, the defendant is going to hire an attorney, and that attorney is going to try to challenge the police about whether or not they've 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 complicated in marijuana.
They are starting to get more sophisticated in the tests to measure the level of THC in your system. I think that at some point, they're going to have to put a story about being similar to the .08 — what level would you have to be under the influence of marijuana 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.
How Do Prosecutors Prove a Marijuana DUI?
I've been getting a lot of clients recently who are being arrested for marijuana-related DUI cases. A lot of people don't realize or even think about the police looking for individuals who are smoking marijuana and driving under the influence and are not able to operate a motor vehicle safely. The way these cases are proved is by several facts, such as the following:
- Number one, they're going to see how your driving is. If you're swerving all over the road or driving too slow or too fast in a dangerous matter, that would obviously indicate that you might be under the influence of something and unable to operate a motor vehicle safely. That's one thing the police will look at. They will put that in the police report, and the prosecutors will try to use that to prove the DUI case.
- Another thing they're going to look at is whether they can prove that you were smoking marijuana. The way they typically do that is when the windows roll down, they can smell the marijuana. A lot of people admit that they smoked marijuana, and of course, the best way is that they will do some tests to determine whether or not they're using marijuana. In that test, they will look at the concentration of the marijuana. The higher the engagement, the better argument they had that you could not safely operate a motor vehicle.
- Other things they will do is perform specific tests that are designed to determine whether somebody can safely operate a motor vehicle. They are also intended to determine whether somebody is under the influence of marijuana and how badly they're under the influence for driving a car.
So, that gives you kind of an outline of what they're going to be looking for. Much of this is common sense and depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding your case. What I have you do is come into the office. We go over everything. I can even quote DUI cases over the phone.
Once we're retained on a chance, I will contact the DMV if your license was taken away. We don't need to worry about it if it wasn't taken away. I will also get the court and let them know that I am your attorney, and of course, I will show up at the first court appearance. We typically don't have you come to the first court appearance.
I'll speak to the prosecutors. I'll get the police report. I'll see what evidence they have against you, and then I will usually continue the case to get you a copy of everything. We'll sit down and talk and plan exactly how we will deal with your case so we can get you the best result in the criminal court.
Penalties for Marijuana DUI in California
As far as punishments go for marijuana DUIs, it's very similar to alcohol DUIs. They're going to try to make you do an alcohol program. They're going to put you on probation. They're going to find you. Other punishments 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, different things can be done for these marijuana DUIs 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. They need to protect the public from that particular individual.
It's interesting because it's not just marijuana that they are using to argue that the person can't safely operate a motor vehicle. It's other drugs as well.
People are even taking a 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 that 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 to be successful.