Recreational marijuana use became legal in California in 2018. However, driving under the influence of cannabis (marijuana) is still illegal, per California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e), and the penalties for conviction are harsh. For first-time DUI offenders, a conviction could result in a driver’s license suspension, fines, jail time, as well as much higher car insurance premiums in the future.

Prosecutors face a challenge when attempting to prove you consumed marijuana prior to driving. That’s because it’s not easy to measure how much you consumed, when you consumed it, and there is still no legal limit for cannabis consumption under California law, as there is for alcohol. Also, while a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can easily be measured, the same cannot be said for cannabis. Chemical tests for cannabis are not yet reliable enough to definitively prove intoxication.

There is other evidence, though, which can be compelling evidence used to convict you of a marijuana DUI. Law enforcement can argue you were “high” based on your driving patterns, statements you made at the scene, performance on a field sobriety test, the presence of drug paraphernalia in the car, and if you had symptoms of intoxication, such as dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes.

Our Orange County marijuana DUI lawyers may be able to help reduce the charges or exonerate you. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, call The Law Offices of Scott Henry today to speak to our DUI defense lawyers for a free case evaluation.

Recreational Marijuana State Laws

California residents and visitors can legally consume marijuana and THC products under state law if you meet the following requirements. You:

  • Are at least 21 years old.
  • Possess no more than one ounce of marijuana or its equivalent.
  • Grew your own marijuana or legally purchased it at a licensed dispensary.
  • Do not consume cannabis in public.

But as mentioned above, it’s important to remember that California’s recreational marijuana laws don’t permit driving while under the influence of cannabis. This means that if you’re stopped by the police and they believe that you are impaired, you could face DUI charges — even if you only consumed a modest amount of cannabis or THC. The same rules also apply to individuals with a medical marijuana license.

Impairment due to Multiple Substances

Scientific studies suggest that combining alcohol and marijuana can greatly impair your ability to make decisions and response times. For this reason, California law enforcement authorities take polysubstance use very seriously. If you were arrested while under the influence of marijuana and another substance, it’s best to speak to an experienced DUI defense lawyer in the area about your case.

Your legal team will have to carefully evaluate your level of intoxication and how the substances you consumed can interact. Your defense may involve a sophisticated analysis of your blood-alcohol concentration levels, toxicology results, and other evidence that demonstrates the extent of your impairment. Due to this level of complexity, you should not consider defending yourself in a multiple substance DUI case.

Chemical Tests for Cannabis in DUI Cases

Compared to an alcohol-related charges, marijuana DUIs are much more complicated. First of all, THC impacts people differently. While one person may be clearly impaired after consuming marijuana, another may function relatively normally. (Notably, research suggests that even if you feel “normal,” consuming marijuana makes you twice as likely to cause a car crash.)

If a police officer smells marijuana or identifies possible drug paraphernalia around you, you may still face criminal charges even if you were relatively unimpaired. Researchers have not yet developed an accurate chemical test for cannabis and THC impairment. If you have any THC in your system, you are at risk of facing marijuana DUI charges. And, to further complicate matters, regular cannabis users may have significant THC metabolites in their system — even when they are not impaired or using marijuana.

While a properly-performed chemical test can help the authorities identify your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), they have to rely on soft evidence in a marijuana DUI case, such as:

  • Attention and concentration deficits
  • Bloodshot, reddened eyes, or dilated pupils
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Erratic driving behaviors
  • Failed roadside sobriety tests
  • Mood changes or an altered sense of time
  • Memory problems
  • Slurred or incoherent speech

This can offer an experienced local attorney significant opportunities to argue for an acquittal or reduced sentence following marijuana DUI charges.

Defenses for Marijuana DUI Charges in Orange County

Depending on the facts surrounding your case, your lawyer will use a number of strategies to fight your marijuana DUI charges, such as:

  • You were not “high” behind the wheel
  • The police officer had no probable cause to pull you over or arrest you
  • The police officer did not follow proper procedure
  • There was no warrant to draw your blood for chemical testing
  • The results of a blood test indicated a false positive
  • Your driving abilities were not affected by marijuana

Your local marijuana DUI attorney will carefully analyze the facts surrounding your case, including the amount of THC or marijuana you consumed, the timing of your consumption, your height and weight, and exactly how the authorities handled your arrest. A single mistake or oversight by the police can significantly strengthen your defenses.

At The Law Offices of Scott Henry, we believe that an aggressive and detailed DUI defense is essential. That’s why we solely handle DUI matters. We can help you understand your legal rights, your options, and our unique approach to DUI defense.

What Are the Penalties for a Marijuana DUI?

Under California law, there isn’t a marijuana-specific DUI statute. Instead, the state imposes the same criminal penalties for both alcohol and marijuana-related DUIs. If you are convicted, you may face the following penalties:

  • First DUI: Up to six months of jail time, the suspension of your driver’s license, mandatory DUI school (or traffic school), substance abuse counseling, probation, and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Second DUI: Up to one year of jail time, a two-year driver’s license suspension, an extended education program, substance abuse counseling, and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Third DUI: Up to one year of jail time, a three-year driver’s license suspension, a 30-month DUI education program, substance abuse counseling, and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Fourth DUI (or more): A 16-month prison sentence, permanent loss of your driver’s license, substance abuse counseling or rehabilitation, and up to $18,000 in fines and penalties. This is a felony offense.

You may also face an enhanced sentence or felony charges if you injured or killed someone while driving under the influence of marijuana or THC. With so much at stake, you should never attempt to defend yourself in a DUI case.

The Law Offices of Scott Henry focus solely on DUI defense and related matters. We have handled countless marijuana DUI cases and understand the tactics and strategies that California’s prosecutors use. Before you speak with the authorities, contact our office.

Speak With an Orange County Marijuana DUI Attorney Today

Our skilled attorneys have years of defending clients against impaired driving charges, including marijuana DUI matters. Because we focus on DUI defense, our legal team has the knowledge and resources to aggressively fight for our clients. If you’d like to learn more about our approach to these offenses, our Orange County marijuana DUI lawyers would love to speak with you. Contact us at The Law Offices of Scott Henry for a free consultation and to discuss your defense strategy.

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