The Hazy State of Marijuana DUI Laws in California

Marijuana

California famously led a national trend when the state legalized the possession and sale of medical marijuana through the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. Residents are now allowed to possess marijuana so long as they have documentation from a doctor prescribing them marijuana. Simply having such a medical marijuana card, however, does not prevent a person from being arrested for a DUI, as one defendant found out when Simi Valley police arrested him after finding him behind the wheel with what they called a “small pharmacy of marijuana products.” While the defendant’s display of a medical marijuana card did prevent him from being arrested for marijuana possession, police warned that had the defendant been driving (he was parked in the car at the time), he may have faced a DUI arrest.

Situations like this bring up the question of under what circumstances will police arrest marijuana users for a DUI. State legislators have tried to introduce bills into law that would make it a crime to drive a vehicle while cannabis is in the driver’s system. These attempts have failed. Given the fact that cannabis can remain in a user’s system for days and weeks after last ingesting it, the defeat of the bill makes sense as it would have penalized drivers who may not have used marijuana for weeks and therefore would not be “under the influence.”

That said, a driver under the influence of marijuana may be arrested for a DUI if “driving under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug.” In order to be successfully convicted for driving under the influence of marijuana, the prosecutor will have to prove that the ingestion of the marijuana actually impaired the driver’s driving performance. Therefore, a driver who is found to have marijuana in his or her system while driving a car will not automatically be convicted of a DUI unless there is a showing that the driver was also impaired as a result of the marijuana usage.

While the police may use a roadside sobriety test to determine a driver’s blood alcohol content for the purposes of establishing impairment by alcohol, it is a more complicated matter for the police to determine that a driver is impaired by marijuana. Blood or urine tests may be taken by the police to determine the amount of marijuana in a driver’s system (drivers in California are deemed to consent to such tests, but may choose either a blood or urine test), but such tests are questionable for proving impairment. The police may also observe the driver’s behavior to determine impairment, but such observations may be subjective, wrong, and generally questionable.

Seek Out an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Ventura County

If you have been arrested or are under investigation in Ventura County for a DUI or other criminal offense, you owe it to yourself to seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney. For a free consultation on your DUI or criminal investigation or prosecution, contact a skilled and knowledgeable Oxnard criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Paul Tyler, at 805-889-9000.

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