Since 2018, residents and visitors in California who are at least 21 years old have had the right to purchase, possess, and use marijuana. However, marijuana use is not carte blanche in the state, there are some restrictions as to where the drug can be consumed. For example, it is illegal to smoke while driving a motor vehicle on public roadways. If you are caught doing so, you can be subject to penalties that include incarceration or loss of driving privileges.
If you have been accused of smoking and driving and are facing a marijuana DUI charge, the Los Angeles DUI Attorney’s legal team can help you understand the criminal defense process and provide services aimed at minimizing the consequences of a potential conviction. Contact us for a case evaluation.
The Law That Makes It Illegal to Smoke and Drive in California
With the passage of the law permitting adults to use marijuana in California, state lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 65, which amended Section 23220 of the Vehicle Code to state that not only is it illegal to drive while consuming an alcoholic beverage, but it is also illegal to drive while smoking marijuana.
How Does Law Enforcement Know That Someone Is Smoking and Driving?
Generally, law enforcement officers make contact with individuals who they suspect are driving while smoking marijuana in the following circumstances:
- The officer pulled the driver over after observing them driving like they are impaired, such as weaving in and out of the travel lane, or driving well above or below the speed limit.
- The officer contacted the driver at a DUI checkpoint and detected the smell of marijuana in the vehicle, or the presence of an open marijuana container or paraphernalia in the vehicle.
- The driver was involved in an accident that resulted in injuries or death and there is reason to believe the accident was a result of impaired driving.
The Potential Penalties of a Marijuana DUI
Except in cases involving an injury or fatal accident, or other extenuating circumstances, individuals who have been convicted of marijuana DUI can expect to be charged with a misdemeanor offense.
A misdemeanor marijuana DUI carries consequences of:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A suspension of one’s driver’s license for up to six months
- Unsupervised probation of up to five years.
These penalties increase with subsequent DUI convictions within a 10-year timeframe. A marijuana DUI can involve a felony charge in certain circumstances, including:
- The DUI was a result of an accident in which someone was injured or killed.
- The driver had at least three previous DUI offenses in the past 10 years.
- The driver was convicted of another felony within the past 10 years.
How a DUI Attorney Can Protect Your Rights When You Have Been Charged for a Marijuana DUI
If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI, a DUI attorney can provide a number of services designed to protect your rights during the criminal investigation process and to mitigate the impact of a potential conviction on your life. Here is a look at a few of the services a DUI attorney performs for a client who has been accused of smoking and driving:
Determining the Evidence Against You
Your attorney will have a number of questions about how the traffic stop resulting in your charge occurred, as well as the methods used to determine that you were smoking while driving. This can include:
- Chemical tests such as blood, breath, or urine tests used to determine the presence of marijuana metabolites
- The officer’s accusations of smelling marijuana in the vehicle
- The presence of an open marijuana container or paraphernalia
The attorney will want to know the protocols that were used in gathering this evidence, as well as the accuracy of the equipment that was used.
Gathering Evidence to Support Your Innocence
There are a number of strong legal defenses against marijuana DUI charges. For one, the chemical tests used to test for impairment can show the presence of marijuana metabolites in a driver’s blood or urine, but cannot show whether the driver is impaired. Additionally, the state does not have a set limit as to what constitutes impaired driving as it pertains to marijuana, and marijuana — even more than alcohol — presents unique effects depending on the user.
Remember, in a criminal proceeding, you do not have to prove your innocence, but rather, the prosecution has to prove your guilt. The evidence your attorney is looking for is the type that contradicts the prosecution’s version of how the events occurred, such as a chemical test that shows you did not have marijuana metabolites in your bloodstream at the time the incident occurred.
Negotiating a Plea Bargain
In some cases, there is no opportunity to get the charge dismissed as a result of an improper procedure or an improperly calibrated piece of testing equipment. In these cases, your attorney’s defense strategy will involve mitigating the consequences of the charge as much as possible by negotiating a plea bargain. A plea bargain involves you agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge or agreeing to plead guilty to the original charge out-of-court, in exchange for reduced sentencing.
It is important to note that in DUI cases, including those involving marijuana, that are the result of the driver’s addiction to any substance, your attorney generally has leeway to negotiate a deal that involves treatment.
Marijuana DUI? We Can Help
An experienced DUI attorney is an important part of your legal defense against a marijuana DUI charge. Whether this is your first offense or you are facing a felony this time around, let us give you answers about the process and more information about how we can help you protect your finances and freedom from a conviction. Contact us for a case evaluation.