With the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, residents of California can use marijuana for recreational purposes in addition to using it for medical treatments. The new law allows for the recreational use of marijuana in some private and public spaces, but not all.
When it comes to smoking in a parked car, the answer is complicated. The legality of smoking in your parked car is primarily governed by where your car was parked. However, there is one additional complication to smoking in your car: you can be arrested for a DUI, even if you weren’t driving.
Is It Legal in California to Smoke in a Parked Car?
Under California Health and Safety Code Section (HSC) § 11362.2, you can only smoke marijuana in a limited number of private and public spaces. You may not smoke marijuana if:
- You are within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, or youth center if there are children present
- You are in a public place that has not issued an exception for an event or other reason
- You are in a location where tobacco products have been banned
The law does allow some exceptions here. For example, you can smoke within 1,000 feet of a school while children are present if you are on the grounds of a private residence and no one can detect your smoking. So long as you’re within these limits, you shouldn’t get charged with a violation of HSC 11362.
Smoking in a Parked Car in California May Still Cause Legal Trouble
While you can smoke or consume marijuana recreationally, California law does not allow you to drive if you have smoked or consumed it recently enough to be impaired. If you drive while impaired after smoking or consuming marijuana, you can be charged with a DUI as if you had been driving with alcohol in your system.
Since the police can’t detect impairment from marijuana as readily as impairment from alcohol with a breathalyzer, officers are on the lookout for other signs a motorist has been driving while impaired by marijuana. One sign an officer may look for is an individual smoking in a car, even if it is parked. An officer may approach your parked car to see if you’ve been smoking and driving.
The police do not need to see you driving to arrest you for a DUI, and simply being in a car that is on or has been on recently while smoking may be grounds for an officer to arrest you. In addition to the DUI charge, you can also get charged with transporting an open container for having marijuana available to smoke in your vehicle.
You Can Fight Back Against Charges for Smoking in a Parked Car
If you want to smoke in your parked car, you can take several steps to reduce the likelihood of facing criminal penalties, including a possible conviction for a DUI. You can:
- Verify that you have permission to smoke in the private location where the vehicle is parked.
- Avoid smoking in a recently driven car.
- Don’t smoke in the driver’s seat.
If an officer approaches your vehicle while you are smoking, remain calm and polite. You do not have to consent to perform a field sobriety test, and you are not required to agree to a chemical test prior to being arrested. You are entitled to have an attorney present for any questioning beyond answering some basic questions, including identifying yourself and the vehicle owner.
A DUI Lawyer Can Help You Fight Back
While the penalties for a DUI conviction can be severe, a skilled DUI lawyer can help you. The prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that you were driving while impaired. Therefore, any evidence you can provide to help suggest you weren’t driving can help have the charges dismissed.
Is It Expensive to Retain a Marijuana DUI Lawyer?
The cost of hiring a lawyer depends greatly on the complexity of your case. While, yes, hiring a lawyer can be expensive in certain circumstances, you shouldn’t view it as an expense. The overall cost of facing a DUI charge in California can be staggering, especially if this is your second or third offense.
Instead of facing those penalties, you can hire a lawyer that can reduce their impact. You shouldn’t overlook all the benefits solid legal representation can offer you. While you can fight against a marijuana DUI on your own, if you don’t have a lot of legal experience, this may end up causing more harm than good.
Talk to Our DUI Lawyers Today
Our Los Angeles DUI attorneys have years of experience helping people fight against DUI charges. If you got arrested for a DUI, it’s not a hopeless case. There are ways you can dispute those charges and prove your innocence. Let us help you today with a free consultation at no risk or obligation to you. You can reach us 24/7 online or over the phone.