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8 Things You Should Know About Marijuana DUI Laws

Did you know that it’s legal for you to possess marijuana if you live in California? In 2016, the state of California legalized the nonmedical use of marijuana if you’re a person who’s over the age of 21. Under Proposition 64, you can essentially cultivate, possess, and consume marijuana for personal use. However, you should still note that being in possession of, cultivating, and distributing marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Furthermore, driving under the influence of marijuana can still get you arrested in California (and the rest of the country). Think of it similar to drinking alcohol. You’re allowed to drink but driving while intoxicated can get you arrested for DUI.

If you want to learn more about the legal implications of driving under the influence of marijuana, you should read up section 23152(f) of the California Vehicle Code. This section clearly states that if a drug impairs your cognitive abilities that make it difficult for you to drive with caution and with the same care and responsibility of a sober person, then you can be arrested and charged for driving under the influence of drugs.

1. What are the Effects of Marijuana?

Before you find out more about what the law says about driving under the influence of marijuana, you should know about the common side effects of this once illicit drug. Even though the effects can vary from person to person, these are the general effects that you may experience:

  • Altered sense of time
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory impairment
  • Mood changes
  • Increased appetite

2. What are the Effects of Marijuana on Driving your Vehicle?

According to research, the various effects that marijuana can have on you impair your ability to concentrate. This causes your reaction time to slow down. And it can impair your driving skills. Whenever your motor coordination skills are impacted, it can double the risk of you causing an accident. Yet, on the other hand, other studies show that if you drive after smoking marijuana, you drive cautiously and slower than your friend who had a couple of beers.

Even though studies show different things, the CDC notes that other factors make it difficult to determine if marijuana contributes to increased motor vehicle accidents. For instance, the testing methods that are used make it difficult to reach conclusive evidence.

3. Testing Methods

You’d be surprised to find that there’s a legal grey area as far as determining through testing methods whether a driver was impaired by marijuana. Testing for marijuana in your system is much different than alcohol. With alcohol, things are generally more straightforward. Let’s say you got pulled over for drunk driving. A standard breathalyzer test that reads above 0.08 can be enough to prove your impairment levels (though even then it should be noted that, with a good DUI lawyer, fighting your case is still possible).

With marijuana testing, there isn’t a cut and dried way to determine your impairment levels. However, there are trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) who can look for certain tell signs to try and prove that you’re under the influence. Signs like your dilated pupils, the smell of marijuana, and red eyes can be used to prosecute your case.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be effectively tested for marijuana. Blood tests and urine tests can still be used to detect THC levels in your system. In fact, both these methods can be used to detect it, but the issue is that it shows up in your system days and sometimes weeks after you’ve used marijuana, when you’re no longer feeling the effects of it.

4. How Much Marijuana in Your System Proves Impairment?

Studies suggest that detecting marijuana in your system isn’t enough to determine your impairment. As mentioned, THC can stay in your bloodstream for a while after use. In some cases, it can last up to 30 days! In addition, there’s no objective test, like the alcohol breath test, for marijuana impairment. This is why there isn’t a legal “per se” violation for your marijuana DUI in California.

5. What Driving Conduct May Exhibit Impairment?

If you’re trying to figure out what kind of behavior can exhibit your impairment, you’re not alone. This is why you should know these five common signs of impairment.

  • Driving too slowly
  • Waiving between the lines

It’s important to remember that while marijuana can impair your cognitive function, other factors can contribute to this impairment. For instance, driving when you’re fatigued and while using your smartphone can increase the probability of you causing a vehicle accident.

6. What Are the Legal Defenses For Marijuana Impairment?

Even though marijuana use is legal in California, a marijuana DUI is still a serious offense for you to face. Not only can a conviction leave you with a permanent mark on your record, but you can also face jail time and other long-term consequences. However, when you have a reliable and experienced DUI attorney, you can minimize your penalties and sometimes walk away without a conviction.

There are a couple of defenses that your attorney can use to win your case. They might argue that you were not impaired by finding potential flaws in the DRE’s testimony. Alternatively, they could argue based on flawed testing. For instance, if you’re a habitual marijuana user, your attorney can argue that there were THC levels in your system but you were not impaired while driving. Basically, with a strong and reasoned case from an experienced attorney, it can be very hard for a prosecutor to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were impaired by marijuana while driving.

7. Penalties of a Marijuana DUI

The penalties are the same as your conventional misdemeanor DUI. However, that changes if you cause a fatal accident or one that causes serious injury. Your penalties can be severe depending on any other previous DUI convictions. But the common misdemeanor DUI penalties include fines, jail time, driver’s license suspension, possible probation, and DUI/education programs. However, if you have a felony marijuana DUI, the penalties are more severe. In addition, you can be subjected to victim restitution.

It’s important to know that refusal to submit to the chemical test during your arrest can seriously impact your penalties. For instance, you can have two days added to your jail sentence, a longer driver’s license suspension, and even longer DUI/drug program classes.

8. Hire Artz & Sturm Law Group

At Artz & Sturm Law Group, we know how to defend our clients against DUI charges. If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’ve been arrested for a marijuana-related DUI in Los Angeles, we can help. We encourage you to reach out to our office to discuss the specific details of your unique case today.

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