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How is a Marijuana DUI Different than Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol?

In California, drunk driving is one of the leading causes of road collisions. According to California VC 23152(a), DUI means driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, a DUI charge for drinking alcohol differs significantly from a DUI charge for using drugs. Alcohol impairment while operating a vehicle is simple for the prosecution team to establish. The prosecution team can swiftly determine the amount of alcohol in a driver's system via a breathalyzer test. However, some substances, like marijuana, can stay in a person's bloodstream for days or weeks. Furthermore, it is impossible to predict the exact threshold at which marijuana can make it difficult for a person to drive.

It is crucial to comprehend the differences between a marijuana DUI and an alcohol DUI. If you face charges for marijuana DUI in Los Angeles, this will assist you in understanding your charges and the potential legal repercussions. Speak to an expert DUI lawyer for further details and reliable legal advice.

Understanding California Marijuana DUI

Driving under the influence of marijuana could result in marijuana DUI charges. Several states, including California, have legalized marijuana use for recreational purposes. But marijuana DUI is still illegal in every state. It means that you cannot operate a vehicle if your ability to drive is impaired by marijuana.

In California, DUI is a fairly common but severely punished offense. Law enforcement is constantly on the watch for drivers who could be impaired by alcohol or drugs. The police can ask you to submit to some chemical tests after stopping you on suspicion of doing so to confirm if you are genuinely driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. An officer can better identify drunk drivers by their expressions, how they respond to queries, and the smell of alcohol emanating from their mouths. To find out how much alcohol is in your blood, an officer can even administer a breathalyzer or blood test after arrest.

However, determining a driver's state of intoxication when under the influence of marijuana is complicated. In California, recreational marijuana use is permitted. Therefore, a driver cannot face charges for marijuana DUI just because there are traces of marijuana in their blood. The arresting officer must demonstrate from their observations that you were operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The officer could have seen a stash of marijuana in your car, smelled marijuana coming from you or your vehicle, or even seen your bloodshot eyes after suspecting you of drugged driving. This additional evidence can support your marijuana DUI charges.

If a police officer believes you were drugged while driving, you will face charges under California VC 23152(f). Driving while under the influence of any narcotic is prohibited by this law. If you do the following, you break the law:

  • You drive a car
  • You do so while under the influence of drugs (in this case, marijuana), and
  • The drug harms your physical and mental capacities to the extent that you cannot drive safely under the same conditions as if you were sober.

The prosecution must demonstrate that you were operating a motor vehicle when the police stopped and arrested you. That could be simple, given that most DUI arrests occur during traffic stops. Even if the arresting officer did not observe you operating the car, they can still detain you and charge you with DUID. The prosecution will present circumstantial evidence to back up the accusations.

Difference Between Marijuana DUI and Alcohol DUI in California

DUIs involving alcohol or marijuana is taken very seriously in California. A DUI conviction typically carries harsh punishments, which worsens with the number of DUIs you have on your record. However, prosecutors approach charges of DUI involving alcohol and marijuana differently. Some of the distinctions to be aware of are as follows:

Proving Marijuana DUI is More Challenging

Alcohol consumption impacts one's physical and mental health as the body absorbs alcohol into the bloodstream. Alcohol lowers your physical and mental faculties the more you drink. As time goes on, it has a more significant impact on your body. But as long as you do not keep drinking, the effects of alcohol start to fade once it has all been absorbed into your blood. So, depending on how much alcohol you have been drinking, you can drive after a few hours or longer.

Compared to marijuana-using drivers, this is hugely different. Depending on your physique, marijuana's impacts on your physical and mental capacities could be felt right away. Its effects could last for several hours or even days. In actuality, marijuana will appear in a drug test a few days after you use it. Therefore, it is difficult for prosecutors to support a marijuana DUI accusation.

A drug test also cannot tell you the quantity of drugs in your blood. The police can rapidly perform a BAC test to assess your blood alcohol content (BAC) regarding alcohol consumption. For different drivers, California law specifies a standard BAC. For example, a 0.08% limit is allowed for ordinary car drivers. DUI accusations result from having more alcohol in your system than is legally permitted. With marijuana, it is impossible to do that.

You can use the fact that you smoked marijuana recreationally or did so days before your arrest as justification for your actions. It will not be possible for the prosecutor to prove in court that you were driving while high, thanks to a lack of supporting evidence.

Marijuana Has No Legal Limit

The recreational use of marijuana is now permitted in California. But the issue is that there is no established legal limit for drivers in the law. The California per se limit establishes the allowable blood alcohol content that a motorist can have when operating a vehicle. For example, a regular driver in California cannot drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more. The permitted limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%. Under California Vehicle Code 23152(b), only drivers who exceed this threshold are subject to prosecution for drunk driving.

However, there are no such restrictions on marijuana in California law. Keep in mind that, even with chemical testing, the police or even the judge cannot determine how much marijuana a driver has consumed just before driving. Therefore, chemical testing for drivers facing accusations of operating while impaired by marijuana reveals if they smoked pot before driving. You could drive several minutes, hours, or even days after its consumption.

Therefore, the prosecution needs additional proof to demonstrate that a driver committed a marijuana DUI. The arresting officer must provide more supporting evidence for these allegations. For example, the officer could contend that the driver was smoking inside the vehicle or had just smoked marijuana. They could have evidence to back up their claims, like marijuana they discovered in the car or the smell of marijuana from the vehicle or the driver. That, coupled with showing signs of intoxicated driving, could support a guilty verdict.

Convicting Marijuana DUI Without a Chemical Test is Possible

Prosecutors require evidence to back up their allegations against defendants. The court's ability to find a defendant guilty in DUI trials depends on various pieces of evidence. For example, a chemical test for alcohol DUI could demonstrate that you were driving while intoxicated and that your blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. But in the case of a marijuana DUI, that proof is not required.

Even if you consumed marijuana days before the arrest, remember that a positive marijuana test result is expected. Therefore, a chemical test will not give the prosecution the concrete proof they need to succeed in obtaining a conviction. Due to this, chemical testing is not required to find a driver guilty of a marijuana DUI.

However, the prosecution must present additional proof showing you were driving while impaired by drugs. For example, the arresting officer can provide a reason for the traffic stop. How did you act when you were driving? The police should have a good reason to pull you over and conduct a DUI investigation if you drove carelessly, went too fast, or broke any other traffic laws.

The police must also give more evidence that led to your arrest and marijuana DUI charges. It could be that they found marijuana in your vehicle or smelled it from your vehicle. Additionally, some outward signs, like bloodshot eyes, can support a marijuana DUI accusation.

Chemical Tests for Marijuana DUI Differ from Those for Alcohol DUI

Chemical testing shows that you consumed drugs or alcohol before operating a vehicle. Blood alcohol content testing is crucial because it gives the prosecution your BAC levels, which support charges under California Vehicle Code 23152(b). Chemical testing for marijuana shows that you used the drug minutes, hours, or even days before operating a motor vehicle. The results of the tests demonstrate that you could be driving while intoxicated.

However, the chemical tests used to check for marijuana usage and alcohol in your system differ. The majority of the time, the traffic police employ breathalyzers to gauge a DUI suspect's blood alcohol content. Compared to blood tests, breathalyzers are less intrusive and more straightforward. Blood tests on alcohol DUI suspects will only be performed under specific conditions. For example, when they are too drunk or unconscious to provide a breath sample.

However, one of the tests that can be used to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana is a blood test. The police could recommend a breath test if they suspect you were driving under the influence. However, the officer could amend the recommendation to a blood test if there is no sign that you are high on alcohol. A blood test is one way to detect drugs in your system. The police will advise a urine test if you cannot submit to a blood test due to conditions like hemophilia.

Chemical tests for marijuana DUI are typically very intrusive. Additionally, the results are unreliable as evidence in a trial since they cannot tell you how much of the drug is still in your system or when you last consumed it.

Penalties For Marijuana DUI Could Vary From DUI With Alcohol

It is essential to be aware of the potential consequences if you face charges for driving under the influence of marijuana in Los Angeles. Keep in mind that DUI is a severe offense in California. Following a DUI conviction, you will probably face significant jail time and a hefty court fee. However, your punishments will likely differ from those for an alcohol-related DUI.

In California, DUI is a priorable offense. Your post-conviction penalties will rise in proportion to the number of prior convictions on your criminal record, whether you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In California, misdemeanor convictions for marijuana DUI are the majority. If you caused an accident that resulted in another person's death or severe harm, you could face charges for a felony for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The following punishments apply to marijuana DUI misdemeanor convictions:

  • Five years at most on summary probation
  • 96 hours to six months in prison
  • A $1,000 court fine
  • A six-month suspension of your driver’s license

Penalties for a second and third offense will be harsher.

The following punishments apply to marijuana DUI felonies:

  • Felony probation
  • Imprisonment in a state prison
  • Losing your driving privileges

Depending on the specifics of your case, the judge has complete discretion in deciding how long you should remain incarcerated.

Find a Competent Los Angeles DUI Attorney Near Me

Do you or someone you know in Los Angeles face marijuana DUI charges?

It is important to know what to anticipate throughout and after the trial. In California, marijuana DUI accusations are very different from alcohol DUI charges. A knowledgeable DUI lawyer can guide you through the complicated legal process, explain these distinctions, and defend your rights. Additionally, we could create a compelling defense against your accusations at Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney to persuade the judge to dismiss or lessen them. We can fight for or achieve a favorable solution for your circumstance by using the most remarkable legal defense techniques, thanks to our knowledge and experience. Contact us at 323-464-6700 to find out more information.

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