The state of California legalized recreational use of marijuana in January 2018, but driving under the influence of marijuana (DUI) is still a criminal offense and the penalties associated with this seemingly minor crime can be life-changing, especially if you are involved in a DUI accident that results in injuries to another person. If you have been charged with or are under investigation for a marijuana DUI crime in Los Angeles, don’t hesitate to retain a criminal defense attorney with experience protecting clients against DUI and marijuana DUI charges. Our lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles are intimately familiar with the complexities of California DUI law and may be able to get your marijuana DUI charges reduced to a lesser offense or dropped altogether. Contact our criminal defense attorneys today at (213) 205-3100 for a free initial consultation.
Affordable Marijuana DUI Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Not only has marijuana been legalized in the state of California but having marijuana in your system has not been proven to impair your driving ability. In fact, scientific research has shown that drivers who have ingested marijuana responsibly can still operate a motor vehicle safely, so it would follow that Los Angeles law enforcement would be relatively lax on marijuana DUI crimes. On the contrary, marijuana use still carries a certain stigma and California police officers seem to be intent on aggressively investigating marijuana DUI crimes, while prosecutors continue to get convictions on charges of driving under the influence of marijuana. Although legal marijuana use is not a defense to marijuana DUI, there are certain defense strategies that have proven successful in Los Angeles marijuana DUI cases. Our criminal defense attorneys have done the research and we know what it takes to win a Los Angeles marijuana DUI case. Hire our attorneys and we will review the circumstances of your case and take the time to determine the best way to proceed in defending yourself against these charges.
When we hear the term “DUI,” we typically think of driving under the influence of alcohol, but California DUI laws also cover driving under the influence of drugs, and that includes marijuana. Under California Vehicle Code § 23152(f) VC, it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any drug, including marijuana, to operate a motor vehicle. However, there is no legal limit in California for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which makes prosecuting marijuana DUI crimes fairly complicated. According to the law, a person violates California Vehicle Code § 23152(f) VC when he or she:
- Drives a motor vehicle;
- Is under the influence of any drug, including marijuana; and
- Is physically or mentally impaired by the drug to the extent that he or she is unable to operate the motor vehicle with the caution of a sober person.
For purposes of California marijuana DUI law, “driving” does not necessarily mean actively operating a motor vehicle, which means a Los Angeles police officer can arrest someone for marijuana DUI even if he or she did not actually see that person drive. For example, if an officer sees a vehicle with its engine running parked on the shoulder of a highway with the rear of the vehicle sticking out into one of the lanes, and the driver is asleep at the wheel, smelling of marijuana, with marijuana paraphernalia in the seat next to him, the driver can be arrested for marijuana DUI and the prosecution can convict him of this crime based on circumstantial evidence that he drove under the influence of marijuana. Some offenses related to Vehicle Code § 23152(f) VC marijuana DUI include Vehicle Code § 23222 VC driving in possession of marijuana, and unlawful possession of marijuana for personal use.
Conviction for Marijuana DUI Vehicle Code § 23152(f)
Unlike the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol, which relies on breathalyzer tests and field sobriety tests to determine whether a driver is over the legal limit in terms of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), there is no legal limit for THC in California and a chemical test for THC alone is usually not sufficient to convict someone of marijuana DUI under California law. It is important to note, however, that a chemical test showing the presence of THC in the driver’s bloodstream is not necessary to convict a driver of marijuana DUI; it is merely one piece of evidence the prosecution can use as proof of impaired driving. Regardless of whether or not the driver takes a chemical test, the prosecutor can use the following evidence to convict on charges of California marijuana DUI:
- The defendant’s statements to police
- The defendant’s driving pattern
- The presence of marijuana or drug paraphernalia in the defendant’s car or on his or her person
- Physical symptoms of impairment (rapid breathing, dilated pupils, red eyes, slowed reaction time, a marijuana odor)
- The defendant’s performance during field sobriety tests
How is Marijuana DUI Different from Drunk Driving
California Vehicle Code § 23152(f) marijuana DUI and VC § 23152(a) drunk driving are separate offenses with their own criminal elements and legal ramifications, but they are punished similarly under California DUI laws, with a conviction leading to significant fines, license suspension, a mandatory drug and alcohol awareness class, and possibly even jail time, depending on the circumstances of each individual case. There are also some significant differences between a marijuana DUI and an alcohol-related DUI, perhaps the most important being the way the prosecution will build their case against you. The main factor that sets marijuana DUI charges apart from drunk driving charges is the fact that law enforcement cannot simply conduct a breathalyzer test after pulling you over to find out if you have used marijuana recently. That means that law enforcement relies heavily on the personal observations of the arresting officer to determine whether you were driving under the influence of marijuana, and that leaves plenty of room for refutation.
Penalties for a Marijuana DUI Conviction
Under California Vehicle Code § 23152(f) VC, the punishment for any DUI conviction, including marijuana DUI, as a first offense includes up to six months in county jail, up to $1,000 in fines, DUI school, and/or a six- to 10-month driver’s license suspension, and these penalties increase only slightly for second and subsequent DUI offenses. However, for a misdemeanor offense of marijuana DUI causing injury to another person, a conviction can result in up to one year in county jail, up to $5,000 in fines, restitution to the injured parties, DUI school, and/or a one- to three-year license revocation. Felony marijuana DUI in Los Angeles is punishable by 16 months, two years or three years in state prison, up to $1,000 in fines, DUI school, and/or a four-year license revocation, and felony marijuana DUI with injury, the most serious of this kind of offense, is punishable by 16 months to 16 years in state prison, up to $5,000 in fines, restitution to the injured parties, DUI school, and/or a five-year license revocation.
Defenses to Marijuana DUI Charges
Driving under the influence of marijuana may not seem like a serious offense, but if you are pulled over for an unrelated traffic violation in Southern California and you test positive for marijuana, you could end up being arrested for marijuana DUI. Even worse, if you are involved in a car accident that injures another person while under the influence of marijuana, you could face misdemeanor or felony charges for marijuana DUI with injury. Fortunately, there are several arguments an experienced California criminal defense attorney can make to explain or justify your alleged behavior, including the following marijuana DUI defenses:
- The DUI traffic stop and/or arrest was unlawful;
- You did not drive;
- You had not used marijuana;
- You had recently used marijuana, but were no longer high;
- You had used marijuana, but your driving was not impaired as a result; and/or
- The police failed to conduct a chemical test in accordance with California Title 17 regulations.
Hiring a Skilled Marijuana DUI Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
It is a crime in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and that includes marijuana, even though the drug was legalized in the state of California in January 2018. Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and until this changes, driving under the influence of marijuana will remain a criminal offense in California. Our marijuana DUI defense attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of clients arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana in Los Angeles from the harsh consequences that can result from a criminal conviction. To learn more about how you can successfully defend yourself against marijuana DUI charges in Southern California from a law firm with extensive criminal defense experience, contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today at (213) 205-3100.