The Comprehensive Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), approved by voters in 2016 as Proposition 64, legalized recreational use of marijuana for all adults in the state who are 21 years or older. AUMA, which came into effect at the beginning of 2018, allows California residents to possess small quantities of marijuana, grow a limited amount of marijuana plants, and consume it in non-public spaces.
The new law does not make it legal for individuals to be driving while high. Much like alcohol, individuals found to be under the influence of marijuana while driving face severe penalties. These penalties can include harsh fines, restricted driving privileges, and even jail time.
If you’ve been arrested under suspicion of driving while high, you don’t have to face the charges alone. Instead, call (310) 862-0199 to arrange your free consultation with a leading DUI attorney.
How DUI Laws Affect Individuals Found to be Driving While High
Vehicle Code 23152 governs the rules for driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. While much of the text of the law describes the legal levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the statute states that it is illegal for a motorist to drive under the influence of any drug. This broad language does not distinguish between legal and illegal substances, meaning that the AUMA does not affect this section of the statute.
Under this law, individuals may be arrested for a DUI if the officer believes that the individual was driving while high. The DUI charge faced by a motorist who is accused of driving after smoking marijuana can be identical to the charge faced by someone who exceeded the legal BAC limit of 0.08%.
Penalties for Driving While High
If you are convicted of a DUI for driving while high, the penalties you face are entirely dependent on the unique factors of your case. DUI charges in California are considered “priorable” offenses, meaning that you will face increasingly severe penalties for multiple DUI convictions in a 10-year period. The penalties for a DUI conviction can also increase based on aggravating factors that arise from your arrest.
Penalties for “Simple” DUI Convictions
A DUI conviction with no aggravating factors is sometimes known as a “simple” DUI. For example: if you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint and complied with the officer, you are likely facing a “simple” DUI charge. However, this doesn’t mean that the penalties are light. For a first time DUI offense, you can face:
- $1,000 in fines
- Three months of mandatory DUI school, which you must pay for
- A license suspension of up to 10 months
- Six months in jail
Again, these are the penalties for a first time, misdemeanor DUI charge. Subsequent charges, meaning those that occur within a 10-year period, will increase the penalties. If you receive four or more DUI charges within a 10-year period, even if all the charges are only for “simple” DUIs, you can be facing a felony charge. A felony conviction will impair your ability to vote, prevent you from ever owning a firearm in the state, and will result in substantial time in state prison instead of a county or local jail.
Aggravating Factors That Enhance a DUI Conviction
Not every DUI is a “simple” charge. Under certain circumstances, aggravating factors can cause prosecutors to seek an enhancement to the standard DUI penalties. These aggravating factors include:
- DUI with a minor (15 years old or younger) in the vehicle
- Excessive speeding
- Reckless driving
- Refusing a chemical test
These aggravating factors will likely cause the prosecution to seek substantially harsher penalties. That means steeper fines, a longer duration of enrollment in DUI classes, and more time behind bars.
Defending Against a DUI for Driving While High
You may believe that it can be difficult to be charged with DUI for marijuana use. Unlike alcohol, there is no equivalent of a breathalyzer that can be readily used to show a jury you were impaired at the time you were driving. This takes a key tool out of the prosecution’s hands, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy case to win.
Prosecutors can argue that the blood test you took shows a level of THC in your system that would clearly impair your ability to drive. They will also have the arresting officer testify about your driving prior to pulling you over, how the car smelled when he or she pulled you over, and any statements you made during the stop. Taken together, prosecutors can build very strong cases that can convince a jury that you were driving while high.
It is possible to win a DUI case if you were charged with a DUI for driving while high. A skilled DUI defense attorney can argue that THC can last at high levels well after any impairments from the marijuana has worn off. Likewise, any evidence gathered by an officer who acted improperly during the stop or arrest may be suppressed, weakening the prosecution’s case against you.
If you’re ready to speak with a leading DUI attorney about your charges, call (310) 862-0199 today!