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Marijuana DUI’s in California

Posted in Criminal Defense,DUI on October 14, 2019

When people hear about a DUI charge, they usually think of someone driving while intoxicated by alcohol. Many people do not realize that it is a crime to drive while under the influence of marijuana in the state of California, even though medical marijuana and limited recreation use has been legalized.

There are many questions surrounding this issue, such as:

  • Can someone with a prescription drive after using marijuana?
  • How do the police know someone is intoxicated on marijuana?
  • What are the penalties for DUI concerning marijuana?

We hope to answer some of these questions today, but if you may need a Riverside DUI attorney to help answer questions about your particular case.

Why does this matter?

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, 11% of all drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents, of those who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs in 2017. That is an increase over the previous year. While not all of those tested positive for marijuana, many did.

A statewide survey by the same agency asked drivers whether they thought marijuana can impair driving functions such as reaction time, distance perception, lane tracking, coordination and balance – 77.3% said yes, 7.2% said no, and 15.5% said it depends.

The state of California has a new message in its latest report on traffic safety that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.”

What does California law say?

The law in California dictates that it is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of any kind of substance that impacts the nervous system, brain, and/or muscles. This includes marijuana.

The law does not distinguish between whether or not someone has a prescription to use marijuana or not. Nobody is allowed to use the drug then drive.

How do police know a person is high on marijuana?

As of now, there is no standardized breathalyzer test for police to use to determine whether someone has used marijuana. However, it is becoming standard practice for departments to train officers to become drug recognition experts or drug recognition evaluators (DRE). These officers are trained to recognize and determine:

  • Impairment
  • Whether a medical condition or drug is causing the impairment
  • What class of drugs are causing the impairment

The DRE protocol is a collection of tests that doctors have used for decades to evaluate alcohol- and drug-impairment. These evaluations can take place at the scene when someone has been stopped for suspected DUI or afterward at the police station. A DRE test is more accurate with a blood, saliva, or urine test to use for lab analysis.

Penalties for DUI of marijuana in California

Penalties for a guilty conviction of DUI of marijuana are the same as those for those convicted of drunk driving.

  • Firsts offense with no prior conviction of DUI
    • Jail sentence of 2 days to 6 months
    • License suspension of at least 4 months
    • Fine of up to $1,000 plus additional costs
    • Probation from 3 to 5 years
    • Up to 3 months of DUI school
  • Second offense (within 10 years)
    • Jail sentence of 4 days to 1 year
    • License suspension of at least 1 year or more
    • Fine of up to $1,000 plus additional costs
    • Probation from 3 to 5 years
    • 18 to 30 months of DUI school
  • Third offense (within 10 years)
    • Jail sentence of 6 months to 1 year
    • License suspension of up to 3 years
    • Fine of up to $1,000 plus additional costs
    • Probation from 3 to 5 years
    • 30 months of DUI school
  • Fourth or subsequent offense (within 10 years)
    • Felony fourth DUI charge
    • Up to 16 months in prison
    • License suspension of up to 4 years
    • Fine of up to $18,000 plus additional costs
    • Probation from 3 to 5 years
    • 30 months of DUI school

If you were charged for a DUI for marijuana and need legal assistance, contact criminal defense attorney Graham Donath at (951) 667-5293 to schedule your free consultation today, or fill out a contact form.