DUI and Proposition 64

  • May 26, 2017

    Just as it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. Marijuana is one of these drugs. That means, in the State of California, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.

    Many people wonder what this means in the context of California’s Proposition 64. California voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016. The initiative makes it legal to own small amounts of marijuana.

    It’s also legal to own small amounts of derivative products such as concentrates and other cannabis products. California is on the forefront of the legalization of marijuana. In 1996, the state became one of the first U.S. states to allow medical marijuana.

    However, the legalization of marijuana hasn’t changed the fact that it’s illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. California Penal Code Section 23152(e) VC makes it illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. This poses a challenge for law enforcement for several reasons.

    First, there’s no specific legal limit for marijuana like there is for alcohol. For alcohol, it’s illegal to drive with a bodily alcohol content of .08 or more, regardless of whether the alcohol influences your ability to drive. For marijuana, there’s no specific level where the law presumes that a person is unfit to drive. That’s because governing agencies have yet to discover a specific level of marijuana influence that makes a person likely to be a danger on the road.

    Rather, the dangers posed by marijuana influence are unique to each person. One person might still drive well at relatively high levels. Another person might drive poorly because of just a little marijuana in their system.

    Proposition 64 also poses a challenge for law enforcement because marijuana influence is often hard to detect. There’s no breath test for marijuana. For alcohol, a person can breathe into a machine and receive an automatic report of their intoxication levels. This test doesn’t exist for marijuana.

    Law enforcement officers must undergo training to learn to detect drug use among drivers. Only a few officers on any police force have this training. If you’re arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, your Los Angeles DUI lawyers can evaluate your case to see if the arresting officer lacked the necessary training to adequately investigate the incident.

    California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e) VC prohibits driving under the influence of marijuana. You can spend up to six months in jail for a first offense. The courts also typically sentence offenders to substance abuse education courses. You can expect the state to suspend your driver’s license for a period of time. Mandatory fines can be steep, and they can cost thousands of dollars even for a first offense.

    Another challenge with marijuana detection is how long marijuana stays in the body. The body eliminates alcohol quickly. That makes it possible and practical to determine a person’s alcohol level at any given moment.

    Marijuana derivatives remain in the body for up to thirty days after marijuana use. That means a person can test positive for marijuana even when they’re not under the influence of marijuana. Your DUI attorney should carefully review your police report for the possibility that your marijuana test is a false positive.

    While law enforcement officers continue to wrestle with the challenges of Proposition 64, it’s up to law enforcement to prove that you violated the law. If you’re charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, it’s important to review your case carefully for possible defenses. Your DUI attorney can help you raise all possible defenses to the charge against you.

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