Proving a marijuana DUI in California can be challenging as there is no breathalyzer test for marijuana like there is for alcohol.
Driving under the influence of marijuana, also known as DUI, is a serious crime in California. The state has strict laws in place to deter individuals from driving while under the influence of marijuana or any other substance that impairs their ability to operate a vehicle safely.
In this article, we will explore the penalties for marijuana DUI in California and what to expect if you are caught driving under the influence of marijuana in the state.
California’s Marijuana DUI Laws
In California, it is illegal to drive with a blood THC level of 5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or higher. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that causes the “high” associated with the drug. The state’s laws also make it illegal to drive under the influence of any drug if it impairs your ability to drive safely.
It’s important to note that the 5 ng/mL limit is a per se limit, which means that a driver can be charged with DUI if their blood THC level is above the limit, regardless of whether or not they are actually impaired. However, if the prosecution is unable to prove that the driver was impaired, the charges may be reduced or dismissed.
Penalties for Marijuana DUI in California
The penalties for marijuana DUI in California can vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the offender’s prior criminal history. However, some of the potential penalties for a first-time marijuana DUI conviction include:
- Fine of up to $1,000
- Up to six months in jail
- Suspension of driver’s license for up to six months
- Completion of a drug education or treatment program
If you are convicted of a second or subsequent marijuana DUI, the penalties can be more severe. These can include:
- Fine of up to $1,000
- Up to one year in jail
- Suspension of driver’s license for up to two years
- Installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
Additionally, a marijuana DUI conviction can result in higher car insurance rates and can negatively impact your ability to find employment or housing.
Penalties for Under-21 Drivers
It’s also worth mentioning that California has a “zero tolerance” policy for drivers under 21, meaning that any detectable amount of alcohol or drugs in a minor’s system while operating a vehicle is illegal. Penalties for minor who violates this law can include license suspension, fines, and even jail time.
It’s important to note that the penalties listed above are for marijuana DUI convictions in which the driver did not cause any accidents or injuries. If a marijuana DUI results in an accident that causes injury or death, the penalties can be even more severe, including long-term imprisonment.
How is a Marijuana DUI Proven in California?
Proving a marijuana DUI in California can be challenging as there is no breathalyzer test for marijuana like there is for alcohol. Instead, law enforcement officers rely on a variety of methods to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana.
One of the most common methods is through field sobriety tests. These tests are designed to evaluate a driver’s coordination, balance, and ability to follow instructions. The most well-known field sobriety test is the one-leg stand test, which requires the driver to stand on one leg for 30 seconds.
Other tests include the walk-and-turn test, which requires the driver to walk in a straight line and turn around, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which involves following an object with the eyes.
Blood & Urine Samples
If an officer suspects a driver is under the influence of marijuana, they may also request a blood or urine sample. These samples will be analyzed for the presence of THC and other drugs.
It’s important to note that a positive test result for THC does not necessarily mean that the driver was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the arrest. THC can stay in a person’s system for several days or even weeks after use, making it difficult to determine if the driver was actually impaired at the time of the arrest.
Defenses to a Marijuana DUI Charge in California
If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI in California, it’s important to understand that you have the right to defend yourself against the charges. Some of the possible defenses to a marijuana DUI charge include:
- Lack of probable cause for the traffic stop
- The officer did not have a valid reason to request a blood or urine sample
- The blood or urine sample was not properly handled or stored, leading to inaccurate test results
- The driver was not actually under the influence of marijuana at the time of the arrest
- The field sobriety tests were not conducted properly, or the results were misinterpreted
Call a marijuana DUI attorney from Los Angeles DUI Attorney to help you evaluate the specific facts of your case and determine the best defense strategy. Additionally, an attorney can help negotiate a plea bargain or plea to a lesser charge, which can result in reduced penalties.