In some states that have legalized recreational marijuana, there have established limits as to how much can be detected in one’s system while driving. In Colorado and Washington, that limit is set at 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. However, California has yet to establish such limits. This can make the prosecution of marijuana DUI complicated. To date, there have been only two prosecuted cased of fatal marijuana-DUIs in Los Angeles County. The Denver Post reports on the story.
The most recent conviction involved 23-year-old John Sebastian Hernandez. In June of last year, Hernandez got behind the wheel of his car stoned and veered into oncoming traffic on Santa Fe Way.
He struck 40-year-old Gabriela Soto, who was 28-weeks pregnant at the time of the accident. Both Soto and her unborn child were killed.
Though he had no prior record, Hernandez was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and sentenced to two years in prison.
At the time of the accident, Hernandez admitted to smoking marijuana but said that he had not smoked the day of the accident. Blood tests revealed that Hernandez had 14 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. Because marijuana is generally quickly metabolized in the body, prosecutors argued that it was impossible for Hernandez not to have smoked that day.
However, with no set limits, other evidence, such as failed field sobriety tests must indicate intoxication.
The first marijuana-only fatal DUI conviction occurred in 2016 before the state had legalized recreational marijuana. Rodolfo Contreras was convicted of both second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Contreras had 16 nanograms of active THC in his blood when he crashed into a pickup truck, killing the driver.
He is serving 20 years to life in prison.