Yes. Although many people feel they can drive safely while high on marijuana, driving under the influence of pot is still illegal. In fact, it’s treated almost identically to drunk driving and all other forms of DUI under state law.
Why is stoned driving illegal?
The research on how marijuana affects driving is not conclusive. In general, however, people are almost twice as likely to cause an accident when they’re stoned as when they’re sober. This is not nearly as severe as how alcohol affects driving, but it can be considered evidence that stoned driving is unsafe.
Under state law, however, the exact impact of marijuana on your driving ability doesn’t matter. The law makes it illegal to drive on any substance that affects the body, brain or nervous system. That clearly includes marijuana.
Law enforcement also considers stoned driving a threat because it’s so common. Since marijuana has become legal for recreational use in California, law enforcement statewide has expressed worries that the rate of stoned driving is going up. As such, they use DUI checkpoints and other targeted enforcement strategies to maximize the number of arrests.
What are the penalties for driving stoned?
Penalties for all marijuana DUIs include jail time, a suspended driver’s license, mandatory DUI classes, and thousand of dollars in fines and fees, among other things—even if it’s your first offense.
Most cases of stoned driving are misdemeanors, but there are situations where it can also be charged as a felony. The penalties are different for each specific offense. Basic penalties for the most common charges include:
- Marijuana DUI 1st Offense (if no one was hurt):
3 days to 6 months in jail, heavy fines, license suspended for at least 4 months, 3 months of mandatory classes
- Marijuana DUI 2nd Offense (if no one was hurt):
4 days to 1 year in jail, heavy fines, license suspended for 2 years, 18-30 months of mandatory classes
- Marijuana DUI 3rd Offense (if no one was hurt):
6 months to 1 year in jail, heavy fines, license suspended for three years, 30 months of mandatory classes
Note that prior DUIs of any kind count against you, so a person with one previous alcohol-related DUI and one new marijuana DUI will be charged as a second offense.
The fines and other costs can easily go over $10,000, even for a first time marijuana DUI.
Situations where stoned driving can be a felony include:
In some cases, a stoned driving death can even be charged as murder.
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