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Q&A: Can you get a DUI while driving high on marijuana?

Recreational marijuana has been legal in California since 2016, leaving many to wonder about the legality of driving after smoking or otherwise consuming the drug. The answer to whether you can receive a DUI while driving high on marijuana is a definite yes.

According to the California Department of Public Health, you face the possibility of receiving a DUI whether you are driving a car, boat, ATV, motorcycle, or any other type of motorized vehicle. The state does not have to prove your impairment with a chemical test, either. In this blog article, we cover everything you should know about marijuana consumption and driving in the state of California.

What Police Officers Look for When Pulling a Driver Over for Impaired Driving

Unlike Breathalyzer and blood tests used to determine if someone is driving after having consumed an illegal amount of alcohol, no such tests exist to let police officers know if someone is driving high. Officers must rely on their observations instead. All police officers in California have received specific training on how to spot the signs of marijuana impairment. Here are several things an officer might look for when pulling you over for suspected impaired driving:

  • Bloodshot eyes and/or dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth upon inspection
  • Odor of marijuana coming from your vehicle and/or on your person.
  • Presence of marijuana or paraphernalia such as rolling papers, bongs, pipes, scales, or grinders.
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Statements you make to the police office and how you make them, i.e., do you slur your words or speak unusually slow?
  • Whether you pass or fail a Field Sobriety Test. This could involve walking a straight line, following an object with your eyes, or repeating complex details back to the officer.
  • Your driving patterns  

Due to the challenge of physically proving a person is high on marijuana, state law allows police officers to charge drivers with DUI even if they do not offer a chemical test or a driver refuses to take it.

Some Important Things to Keep in Mind

You cannot claim as a defense that California gives you the right to buy and consume recreational marijuana if you are over the age of 21. That is because using the product and driving while under its influence are two entirely different things. You can even receive a DUI if you consumed medical marijuana for which you had a legal prescription. Any drug, whether legal or not, can land people in trouble if they attempt to drive under its influence.

What to Do When Pulled Over for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

The first thing we recommend is not to panic. Although you may feel anxious, embarrassed, or humiliated by the traffic stop, you are not the first person to be in this position and you will not be the last. Remember that a police officer’s suspicion does not automatically make you guilty. Even if you envision fines, jail time, or loss of your driver’s license, these things will not necessarily come to pass.

The best thing you can do is remain calm and follow the officer’s commands, even if you think he or she had no right to pull you over. You do not want to argue with the police since this can make them more hostile to you in return. If you think the police have treated you unfairly, you can take up that matter in court at a later time.

Obtain Assistance from a DUI Defense Attorney Right Away

If the police officer places you under arrest, you have the right to obtain a defense attorney as quickly as possible. We recommend that you do not hesitate in this area since doing so gives the state more time to build a case against you.

When searching for a defense attorney, be sure to inquire about how many marijuana DUI cases each one has specifically tried. Does the attorney get most cases against clients dismissed, or do more cases end up in court?

If more of the DUI attorney’s cases end up in court, you need to find out how familiar he or she is with the local court. This includes knowing who the prosecutors are and understanding their style. How much experience does each potential attorney have dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)? Just remember that experience matters in all aspects of defending a DUI charge.

Request a Hearing with the California DMV

When you face charges for DUI, the standard procedure is for the arresting police officer to keep your physical driver’s license and present you with an Order of Suspension. This pink slip allows you to drive for up to 30 days until your case settles. However, you run the risk of losing your driver’s license indefinitely if you do not respond within 10 days.

We contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles on your behalf to request a hearing to defend your ongoing right to drive. You can bring your DUI attorney with you to help fight for the ability to maintain your driving privileges in California. By retaining Craig Sturm from Artz & Sturm Law Group, you will have legal representation from the time of your arrest until the case settles.

Our goal is always dismissal of charges, and we are prepared to fight any legal consequence we feel is unjust or that the prosecution cannot prove. Please contact us today to schedule an initial review of the charges against you. During your call with us you will also learn more about what you can expect if you retain a DUI defense attorney from our law firm.

Why You Want Craig Sturm on Your Side for a DUI Drugs Case

Craig Sturm is one of the few attorneys who is actually a certified instructor of the NHTSA field sobriety tests used to arrest you. Mr. Sturm is also one of the very few attorneys who has taken and completes the NHTSA  A.R.I.D.E. Class, which is an actual drug dui course that the officers who are trained in this area took as well. Also, Mr. Sturm has been thoroughly DRE trained, he will be able to go over the 12-step checklist in detail to expose officers for not doing the investigation correctly.

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