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Defending Against a Marijuana DUI Charges in California

While marijuana is legal in the State of California, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of it. If you are arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana, you may face serious criminal consequences, which may affect you for the rest of your life.

National Data and Issues with Marijuana Testing

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the detection of marijuana in automobile drivers involved in traffic collisions has become gradually more common. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that about 13% of weekend evening automobile drivers in 2013-14 tested positive for THC, the active psychoactive substance in marijuana. This is compared to the 9% reported in the year 2007.

For police departments across the state, testing for drug-related impairments is a complex issue because of the limitations of current drug-testing technology. Additionally, there is no consensus on what is or should be considered as impairment when operating a vehicle. When a person consumes marijuana, the presence of the substance can remain in the consumer’s system for many weeks. Unlike alcohol, the presence of marijuana in a person’s system is not equivalent to the person being impaired.

Criminal Defense Attorneys with Extensive DUI Law Experience

Once you have been arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of Marijuana, it is important to know that you have the right to immediate legal representation. When it comes to facing criminal prosecution, seek the legal support of an experienced team of DUI defense attorneys. Regulations regarding marijuana consumption are constantly changing and it is important to seek the legal support of a proficient team of attorneys who have the skills to understand the new California State codes. The attorneys at Schwartzberg & Luther, APC are well-versed in criminal defense litigation and will fight to ensure that your rights are protected.

Determining Impairment in a California Marijuana DUI

According to the California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f)(g), it is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any drug or a mixture of alcohol and drugs. In order to be convicted of a DUI, however, the prosecution will need to demonstrate that you not only consumed marijuana recently, but that the consumption prevented you from operating the vehicle safely. Alternatively, the prosecution could also attempt to prove that you are chemically or emotionally addicted to marijuana to the extent that you suffer from withdrawal symptoms. In any case, the proof of habitual use, whether legal or illegal, is not sufficient.

Unlike an alcohol DUI charge, there is no precision when it comes to how much marijuana should be in a person’s system, which will determine if the person was impaired at the time of the arrest. Because of this, the arresting police officer will need to make an arrest based on the following:

  • The driver’s red or bloodshot eyes,
  • Incoherent speech and/or incoherent sentences,
  • Driving erratically,
  • The driver’s inability to pass a field sobriety test,
  • The smell of marijuana in the vehicle,
  • Dilated pupils,
  • Marijuana paraphernalia found in the vehicle, or
  • Marijuana found in the vehicle

Exploring the Penalties Behind a Marijuana DUI Conviction in California

If you have been convicted of a marijuana DUI charge for the first time, you could face 96 hours to 6 months in a county jail. You may also face fines of up to $1,000 and have your driver’s license suspended for a maximum of 6 months. Depending on the facts of your case, you may need to have an ignition interlock system installed in your vehicle. A second conviction within 7 years of the first conviction may increase your time of imprisonment for 90 days to 1 year, including a driver’s license suspension of up to 2 years. Third-time convictions may carry sentences of 120 days to 1 year and driver’s license suspensions or revocations. At any conviction, the completion of a drug treatment program may be required.

Criminal penalties associated with a marijuana DUI conviction can be extensive and additional consequences may arise. If you have been convicted of a marijuana DUI, you may find difficulty in securing housing, since a majority of leasing or rent application require background examinations. Moreover, upon a conviction, you may lose your job or could face future promotion denials. If you are a student, you may find that you will no longer be able to obtain a federal grant or apply for a federal student loan. Parents negotiating custody agreements may find that the conviction has lost them their case.

Defending Against a Marijuana DUI Charge in California is Possible

As previously noted, even a positive chemical test for marijuana in a person’s system does not offer policing systems enough evidence to demonstrate the driver’s impairment. For the most part, impairment after consuming marijuana lasts from 3-5 hours, and this can present significant challenges to the prosecution. A prosecutor must demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you have driven the vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.

Depending on the facts of your case, your legal support team may be able to utilize the following defenses:

  • There was a lack of probable cause for stopping the vehicle,
  • There was a lack of probable cause for making the arrest,
  • A warrant was not issued prior to the chemical test without consent,
  • The arresting officer did not follow the proper procedure to make the arrest,
  • Evidence was biased,
  • Even if you consumed marijuana, you were not impaired while driving,
  • The arresting officer failed to read you your Miranda rights

Skilled Marijuana DUI Defense Attorneys in California

While the consumption of marijuana is legal in California, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while being impaired because of it. In order to defend against a marijuana DUI charge, it is essential to prove that you were not impaired while behind the wheel. After a DUI arrest, time is of the essence; speak to a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible.

The DUI defense attorneys at Schwartzberg & Luther, APC are skilled and well-versed in the recent California law changes concerning marijuana consumption and DUI charges. Having a proficient criminal defense attorney at your side who is familiar with these laws is critical in your defense. Consult an attorney who will make sure your rights are protected.

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