Since weed was legalized for personal use in California, it has become more common and widespread and even Baby Boomers who illegally partook in their youth are taking advantage of its legalization. But, just like alcohol, it may be legal for adults, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe or legal to operate a vehicle while high on marijuana.
There are some distinct differences between alcohol and marijuana. Alcohol can be measured with breath, blood and urine tests, but that is not the case with pot. It is tricky to measure impairment with cannabis and as of this writing, there is no reliable breathalyzer being used by the State of California to accurately measure THC in a driver’s system. Even if there was, the truth of the matter is that marijuana affects people differently.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Under California law, we do not have a “Per Se” rule for driving under the influence of marijuana. Instead, Section 23152(f) of the Vehicle Code reads, “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” Pretty ambiguous, right? If that’s what you’re thinking, many DUI attorneys are on the same page. The law leaves a lot up to interpretation and that’s the problem with marijuana DUIs.
A driver may be pulled over because they’re speeding, or because they ran a red light or failed to use their turn signal. Then, when the officer walks up to the driver’s car, he or she may see drug paraphernalia, or they may smell pot in the car, or the driver may have bloodshot eyes. Suddenly, the officer is shifting their focus from a simple moving violation to a marijuana DUI.
What often follows is field sobriety tests, maybe a meeting with a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), and a urine test to determine if THC is in the driver’s system. The problem is, some if not all of this evidence is questionable and it can be highly subjective.
Under California law, if you refuse a chemical test, your driver license will be automatically suspended for one year. And, if you test positive for THC, the state has grounds to charge you with a drug DUI, which incurs the SAME penalties as an alcohol-related DUI.
If you’re facing marijuana DUI charges, believe us you have a lot at stake. Don’t try to represent yourself. Instead, contact our firm to speak with a reputable Orange County DUI defense lawyer who is on your side.
Related: Marijuana DUI Charges in California