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Driving High. What Happens If I Get a Marijuana DUI?

Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki April 11, 2023

Car Keys and CannabisWhen most people think of driving under the influence (DUI), they imagine someone who’s been driving drunk. However, you can also be arrested for a DUI for other drugs too, most notably driving high under the influence of marijuana. Although the penalties surrounding DUIs are more or less the same regardless of the substance, there are some key distinctions to understand in how the state sets and imposes legal limits and what this means if you receive a marijuana DUI. 

If you’re in the Santa Cruz, California area including Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco, or Berkeley, reach out to me at Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki to learn more about your options for fighting a DUI. 

California Marijuana Law

California is among a handful of states in the county that have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Even so, it remains illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of pot. Under the law, individuals age 21 and over are allowed to grow and use marijuana for their personal use, and you are permitted to use it on private property or businesses that have a license allowing marijuana consumption. It is illegal to use marijuana in public places, anywhere where smoking is prohibited, and while driving a car. State law allows individuals to carry up to one ounce of marijuana flower or up to eight grams of cannabis concentrate (as is commonly found in gummies and extracts). 

DUI of Marijuana in California

California DUI law prohibits anyone who’s “under the influence” of a drug from operating a car. When the drug in question is alcohol, there’s a fairly straightforward measure of impairment that’s done with a breath test. Those who have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher are considered impaired and may receive a DUI charge. However, there’s no such legal limit for marijuana because there are no chemical tests that accurately measure this. Because of this, officers are forced to use their own observations to determine if someone is under the influence of marijuana. This can be a largely subjective measure. There is a blood test that can detect THC, but this is problematic since THC can stay in your bloodstream for days or weeks after use and is not a reliable measure of impairment at the time of the arrest. 

Possible Penalties 

Regardless of the substance, the penalties for a DUI are the same in the state of California and they get progressively more severe the more offenses you’re convicted of. Many DUIs are tried as misdemeanors in the state, especially if you’re a first-time offender and if there was no other criminal activity happening at the same time. For a misdemeanor DUI conviction, you may receive a penalty of probation, fines, license suspension, or jail time. In rare cases when a marijuana DUI is tried as a felony (for example, if someone was injured), you could face a prison sentence, felony probation, and a longer license suspension. 

Legal Defenses

The best thing you can do if you’ve been charged with a marijuana DUI is to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you in court. Your attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case and then decide the best approach for your defense. This could include questioning the judgment and conclusions of the arresting officer, claiming they didn’t have sufficient evidence to determine you were under the influence. Alternatively, you may challenge the officer’s right to pull you over in the first place, claiming they made an unlawful arrest. 

Fight for Your Rights 

If you’ve recently been arrested for a DUI for marijuana and want to know more about your defense options, reach out to me at Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki in Santa Cruz, California. Let’s uphold your rights together.