Marijuana DUI: Driving Under The Influence Of Marijuana

Posted By Law Offices of Robert M. Bernstein || 10-May-2016

Everyone knows what DUI stands for: Driving Under the Influence. What they may not know is that unlike other crimes, a DUI charge does not require mental intent to violate the law. Under California law, if you are driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or above, you are in violation of the law, and you could be charged for driving under the influence. But this is the case for driving under the influence of alcohol. Few people realize this criminal charge can be filed for driving under the influence of marijuana, as well. However, there is not yet a statutory limit for marijuana like there is for alcohol.

With recent laws being passed in various states legalizing recreational marijuana use, marijuana is becoming increasingly mainstream. Medical marijuana has been legal in California for years, and recently the sale and possession of marijuana has become legal in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. As marijuana use becomes more prevalent, there’s still a lot of uncertainty and misinformation when it comes to the legal implications of driving while under its influence.

For some users, there is a long-held misconception that marijuana either has little, or no effect on their driving abilities. While there is demonstrated evidence that marijuana can impair your driving skills, these effects may may vary for individual smokers. Some users believe this to also be the case under the law: that driving under the influence of marijuana somehow “doesn’t count” as a DUI.

This is not the case: California drivers can be found guilty for driving under the influence of marijuana. However, the method to determine a marijuana DUI is different from an alcohol-related DUI. As mentioned before, the legal limit for being under the influence of alcohol is set by law. If your breath or blood test reveals that you had an 0.08% blood-alcohol content, that means you were—by legal definition—driving under the influence of alcohol. There is as of yet no corresponding level that relates to marijuana.

The active agent that gives marijuana its properties is THC. While there are ways to test for THC levels, there is not a standardized level under the law like there is for blood-alcohol tests. If you fail a field sobriety test for driving under the influence of marijuana, it is the law officer’s discretion whether your abilities were impaired due to marijuana.

The most standard blood tests for THC can reveal that marijuana has been ingested recently, but cannot pinpoint exactly when. Because of this ambiguity, much of the evidence deemed acceptable is entirely up to the judgment of the arresting officer and the performance on the field sobriety tests to determine probable cause for your arrest. Law enforcement often uses superficial factors such as eye-redness and nervous behavior to determine if the driver is under the influence of marijuana.

There is a sense that driving under the influence of marijuana is somehow not as serious as driving drunk. Thanks to comedy movies and popular culture, people assume that you simply might drive slower, or be more paranoid than usual. Unfortunately, according to the law, the possible consequences of driving under the influence of marijuana are no laughing matter. Penalties range from hefty fines and license suspension to jail time and years-long probation.

If you’re a California resident carrying a certified medical marijuana prescription, it may be easy to assume you are safe-guarded from the law. However, it does not allow driving under the influence of marijuana. It is surprisingly easy to get arrested for a DUI under the influence of marijuana. These charges must be defended aggressively with the assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney.

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