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Why are Los Angeles DUI’s with Marijuana harder to prove than DUI’s with Alcohol?

  • September 1, 2017

    You can commit a DUI offense when you drive under the influence of marijuana. Even with measures to decriminalize marijuana, it’s still illegal to drive a vehicle if marijuana influences your ability to drive. The penalties for DUI with marijuana are the same for the penalties of DUI with alcohol. Even though the penalties are still the same, it’s often harder for law enforcement to provide a DUI with marijuana case than it is for them to prove a DUI with alcohol. Marijuana cases pose some unique challenges for law enforcement.

    It’s not enough for law enforcement to just accuse you of DUI with marijuana. You have a right to your day in court. Just an arrest isn’t enough to prove your guilt. Instead, the state has to prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. They have to build the evidence against you and present it to the jury. For marijuana DUI cases, it’s hard for the state to prove the case against you in a trial. This can work to your favor.

    In a DUI with alcohol case, the state can give you a simple breath test in order to determine your level of intoxication. The breath test gives an answer in a matter of seconds. Law enforcement can compare the numbers on the breath test results to the legal limit in California. If you’re over the legal limit for alcohol, you’re a drunk driver. As long as law enforcement did the test in the proper way, the state can admit this evidence against you.

    With a DUI with marijuana case, it isn’t so easy for the state. The first problem for law enforcement is that there’s no breath test to determine your level of marijuana intoxication. Alcohol appears in a person’s breath. Marijuana does not.

    Because marijuana doesn’t appear in the breath, the only way for law enforcement to prove your level of marijuana is by drawing your blood. To do this, they must transport you to a hospital and find a qualified person to draw your blood. It’s not the law enforcement officer themselves that does the blood draw. Finding a person that’s available to do the work can take time.

    For this reason, a blood draw might not occur for an hour or more after you drive a vehicle. In this time, your level of marijuana can change. It might go up or down after you drive the vehicle. That can make it hard for law enforcement to show your levels of marijuana intoxication at the time of your driving.

    There are some other observations that law enforcement officers can use to determine your marijuana levels. Some law enforcement officers have special training to recognize symptoms of marijuana use. However, it’s up to the jury to decide whether or not to put any weight on these observations.

    In addition to the fact that there’s not a breath test for marijuana, there’s also no legal limit for marijuana. With an alcohol test, you’re either over the legal limit, or you’re not. With marijuana, law enforcement doesn’t have this luxury. Instead, they have to be able to prove that you’re under the influence of the marijuana at the time of your driving.

    It’s up to the jury to decide if marijuana influenced your ability to drive. This can pose a practical problem for the state, because many California residents are open minded about the use of marijuana. Juries may not always be quick to believe that marijuana automatically influences a person’s ability to drive a vehicle. They usually hold the state to a very high level of proof.

    The chemical tests for marijuana are complicated. They might confuse the jury. A test for marijuana can show active ingredients in marijuana as well as inactive ingredients. One inactive metabolite for marijuana is THC-COOH. This inactive metabolite can stay in a person’s body long after all of the effects of marijuana have worn off. The state can’t rely on the inactive ingredients in order to try to prove your guilt.

    Because a marijuana DUI case can be harder to prove, it’s important to work with an experienced DUI attorney in order to determine where the state’s evidence is weak. These weaknesses might mean that it’s in your best interests to take your case to trial. It might also work to your favor in order to negotiate an acceptable plea.

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