Defending You From Criminal Penalties
Although using and purchasing marijuana is legal in the state of California, driving under the influence of marijuana is not. If you or your loved one has been charged with a marijuana DUI, seeking the help of an experienced team of criminal defense attorneys is essential. Even though marijuana is a legal drug, a marijuana DUI has the potential to disrupt your life in many ways and can lead to fines, jail time, and a permanent criminal record that hangs over your head forever.
While many people assume that driving under the influence only refers to alcohol, DUI charges are relevant when driving under the influence of any substance. Marijuana can lower reaction times and impede your ability to drive safely, which is why it is still illegal to operate any vehicle under the influence of marijuana. If you would like to retain your driving privileges and avoid a permanent criminal record, reaching out to our team is of the utmost importance.
At the DUI Defense Group, we focus solely on DUI cases in California. We are confident that no matter what your criminal history may be, we can assist you with your marijuana DUI case and reduce or remove the penalties you are facing. Don’t leave your future and your freedom up to chance. Contact our law firm today by calling 866-927-3295.
What is a Marijuana DUI?
A marijuana DUI is a type of DUI that can be assigned when an individual operates a car or automobile under the influence of marijuana. Driving is illegal when under the influence of marijuana or while under the combined influence of marijuana and other drugs or alcohol. To secure a DUI conviction, the prosecution must prove that you had consumed marijuana recently and were still under its effects while operating a motor vehicle.
You can also be charged with a marijuana DUI if prosecutors can prove that you are emotionally or chemically addicted to marijuana. An addiction can cause withdrawal symptoms, leading to dangerous driving scenarios. Therefore, proof of habitual marijuana use or a “high tolerance” for marijuana is not a valid defense against a marijuana DUI.
The prosecution does not need to prove that you were breaking other laws, like speeding or causing an accident, to charge you with a marijuana DUI. A prosecutor must only confirm impairment and operating a motor vehicle.
What Are California’s Marijuana Laws?
In California, recreational marijuana use and medical marijuana use are both legal. However, using marijuana before or while operating a motor vehicle is not legal. Driving under the influence of marijuana is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and it could lead to fines and jail time.
There is no level of THC in the bloodstream that is classified as “impairment.” Blood and urine tests are often inaccurate, as an individual’s marijuana metabolite level can vary wildly depending on their height, weight, and tolerance level. In California, prosecutors will look for evidence of impairment while driving to charge someone with a marijuana DUI.
Is a Marijuana DUI a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
After a marijuana DUI arrest, you could face felony or misdemeanor charges. For a first-time DUI arrest, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. If you caused an accident that led to severe injury or death of another person, you will likely be charged with a felony. Similarly, if you have more than one DUI arrest or conviction on your record, you will likely be charged with a felony.
Felony marijuana DUI charges are more severe than misdemeanor charges and often lead to further penalties. Having a felony conviction on your record also removes additional rights after your release. Felony charges are serious, so it is essential to get help from an experienced legal team today. Contact our law firm for more information about how we can help you.
How Do Prosecutors Establish Impairment?
Before prosecutors can secure a DUI conviction, they must establish impairment. If you are arrested for a marijuana DUI, you are required to submit to chemical testing after your arrest. Refusing the test can be used against you in court, as prosecutors could use it as evidence to show you knew you were impaired and did not want law enforcement officers to confirm it.
Unlike an alcohol DUI, which is confirmed via blood alcohol content (BAC), a marijuana DUI is more challenging to prove. According to state law, there is no amount of marijuana in the bloodstream that can confirm impairment, as marijuana affects everyone differently. Simply proving that you have THC in your bloodstream with a chemical test is not enough evidence of impairment. THC blood and urine testing is highly inaccurate, making it difficult to get results.
Prosecutors will usually establish impairment using physical evidence noted by law enforcement officers at the time of the arrest. Common evidence at marijuana DUI trials include:
- Dilated pupils
- Bloodshot or red eyes
- Erratic driving pattern
- Failure of field sobriety tests
- Incoherent speech
- An odor of marijuana on the individual
- The presence of marijuana or paraphernalia in the car
- Rapid heart rate or breathing
- Slowed reaction time
This evidence is often collected by a police officer who is a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). A DRE is trained to recognize and record signs of impairment. Our team knows what kinds of tests DREs typically use and what type of training they receive to record evidence for a marijuana DUI case. We can use this knowledge to help defend you from the penalties you are facing.
What Are the Potential Consequences of a Marijuana DUI?
The potential penalties of a marijuana DUI can be severe. In general, the consequences get worse if you have prior marijuana DUI convictions on your record.
Below are the potential consequences of a marijuana DUI:
When you are convicted the first time, you could face 96 hours to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. You will also likely have your driver’s license suspended for up to six months. You may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle after your license is reinstated.
For a second conviction, you could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. You may also have your driver’s license suspended for up to two years if your second offense is within seven years of your first conviction. You may be required to use an ignition interlock device in your vehicle after your license is reinstated.
After a third conviction, you will face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if the offense is within seven years of the other convictions. Your license may be suspended, or it could be revoked entirely.
Fourth and Further Convictions
If you are convicted a fourth time, you will face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. You will likely face a license suspension or have your license revoked entirely.
Convictions Within Ten Years of Other Felonies
If you are convicted of a marijuana DUI within ten years of certain other felonies, you could face further penalties. Jail time of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, and a license suspension are all possibilities. You could also be labeled a habitual traffic offender, even if your earlier felony convictions were not traffic-related.
For most DUI convictions, you will be required to complete a Driving Under the Influence rehabilitation course or treatment program. The prosecution can also suggest additional consequences depending on the nature of your charges.
How Do You Defend Against Marijuana DUI Charges?
Marijuana DUI charges can be frightening, but it’s important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. Even testing positive for marijuana in a chemical test doesn’t automatically prove that you were impaired, as habitual marijuana users often have a higher tolerance for THC. Plus, marijuana can last for days in an individual’s system, while the effects only last for about three to five hours.
Your specific defense strategy will depend on the exact nature of your case and your charges. However, there are some common defense strategies our team may be able to use, including:
Lack of Probable Cause
Officers must have probable cause to pull you over for a suspected DUI. If the officer cannot prove that you were swerving, speeding, or driving erratically, we can argue that the initial arrest was made in error.
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion for Arrest
Law enforcement officers must have reasonable suspicion that an individual is under the influence of marijuana. Our team will question the arresting officer to determine how strong that evidence actually is.
Inaccurate Test Results
Blood and urine tests are typically done by a police crime technician. However, these tests can show inaccurate or invalid results.
Lack of Impairment
It is not enough to prove that you were under the influence of marijuana; rather, the prosecution must prove that the marijuana was impairing your driving. Our team can push back on this evidence.
What Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do for Me?
Marijuana DUI convictions have the potential to impact the rest of your life. Jail time, fines, and a license suspension are all likely, even after a first-time conviction. Our team of criminal defense attorneys will work with you to defend your rights and reduce or remove the penalties you are facing. Please don’t feel like you must navigate the criminal justice system on your own. Contact the DUI Defense Group for a free consultation by calling 866-927-3295 today.