And just like that, Proposition 64, AKA “The Adult Use of Marijuana Act” is the law in California and weed is legal.
While legalized marijuana is brand new, the anticipated economic benefits are already being felt all over. Dispensaries and paraphernalia shops are at the front line of businesses benefiting from the new law. So too are more ancillary businesses; I’m sure stores like The Home Depot are selling more growing supplies like pots and soil and hoses and lights. Of course, Del Taco and Dominos Pizza must be seeing sales spikes as well. Unexpectedly, but not surprisingly, there has also been a noticeable increase in marijuana DUIs and for DUI lawyers, marijuana DUI calls are pouring in.
The California Vehicle Code (CVC), under §23152(e), makes it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while “…under the influence…” of drugs including, but not limited to, marijuana no matter the preparation (leaf, edible, liquid).
Every driver licensed in the State of California knows that 0.08% BAC is the standard for alcohol DUI and offers a clear and objective line not to cross. However, there is no legal specific number used to quantify a so-called “limit” for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the psychoactive component of marijuana. So, for someone to be arrested and convicted of a marijuana DUI, it must be proved that the driver was actually impaired – it’s not enough to have weed in your system, you must also be impaired beyond the ability of a reasonably prudent sober person to operate a motor vehicle under similar circumstances.
Because there is no specific “number” prosecutors can rely on, the entire case will depend heavily upon the officer’s documented observations of driving patterns, documented observations of the driver’s behavior during the traffic stop, the driver’s performance on field sobriety tests, all in relation to the presence of THC in any blood test done.
In the absence of any numerical quantifier, whether one is “under the influence” is an extraordinarily subjective standard, which makes marijuana DUI cases more difficult to prosecute successfully.
A common defense strategy is to dissect and analyze each “observation” documented by the arresting officer. For now, law enforcement officers are falling into traps that are set by old habits. They are trained to spot, stop, investigate, arrest, and prosecute alcohol DUI cases; so, their documentation is rich with all of the known traits of an alcohol DUI. However, the expert your lawyer will hire can testify that the standards established for alcohol DUI cases do not correlate to marijuana DUI cases. For example, the field sobriety tests – which are optional and should be declined by anyone over 21 and not on DUI probation – have no correlation to marijuana ingestion or impairment.
Now, in reality, as it is with alcohol, it is unlawful to consume marijuana while driving. Any marijuana in the car must be stored in accordance with the law; it must be in a sealed container in the trunk or rear storage compartment. Likewise, it remains unlawful to drive while under the influence of marijuana.
As of now, scientists and lawmakers are in search of some accurate test and some quantifiable number on some scale for presumed impairment. Other states have established a per se limit (5 nanograms of THC per ml of blood) for presuming that a driver is “under the influence.” These limits are arbitrary inasmuch as they are not accurate measurements of whether or how impaired a person is at the time of driving.
As you can see, there are countless factors that make determining whether a person is “high” very difficult for prosecutors to prove or for juries to understand, which is why it is essential to have a skilled professional on your side.
As the number of marijuana DUIs increases, prosecutor offices across the state have become more aggressive about prosecuting marijuana DUIs and they have almost limitless resources with which to go after you.
An Attorney who knows how to spot and seize on the weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case; one who knows how to take advantage of opportunities for success against aggressive prosecutors; an Attorney who is willing to push back against an unjust system is the best way to make sure you do not suffer a conviction you do not deserve.
If you or someone you care about has been arrested and accused of driving under the influence of marijuana, call today for a free consultation.