Several states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, including all states on the West Coast. While police won’t apprehend you in San Diego for having a personal amount of marijuana on you, operating a vehicle while under its influence is illegal in all 50 states. If you’re caught, you could be charged with DUI of marijuana, a criminal offense that may lead to the same penalties as a standard DUI if you’re convicted.
Marijuana users should be extra careful about driving after they have inhaled or ingested weed. Users of all tolerance levels may experience a reduction of their mental faculties, which can put their lives — and those of fellow drivers and passengers — at risk when driving a car. As with DUI involving alcohol, police throughout San Diego are keen on arresting inebriated drivers to keep others safe.
If you’re not familiar with how a marijuana DUI works in California, here are important facts you need to know before you light up.
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana is Legally Equivalent to Drunk Driving
In the eyes of the law, driving under the influence of marijuana is just as serious as driving under the influence of alcohol. In fact, if you’re convicted, you can face the same penalties as you would for driving while intoxicated with alcohol.
You might be sentenced to any of the following penalties for your first marijuana DUI conviction:
- Period of incarceration for up to 6 months in jail
- A fine of $390-$1,000
- 3 to 9 months of DUI school
- A license suspension
Your driver’s license could be taken away when you’re arrested during the traffic stop. Marijuana DUI lawyers understand the challenges of living your life in a big city like San Diego with no valid license. Work with an attorney like Attorney Dod of Dod Law to regain your driving privilege after your arrest.
A Marijuana DUI May be Easier to Challenge than an Alcohol DUI
Unlike driving under the influence of alcohol, there is no “per se” limit to regulate how much THC a driver can have in his system legally. While most of the country observes a legal limit of 0.08 BAC, there is no equivalent measurement to gauge how high someone is on marijuana. This is mostly due to the fact that marijuana affects everyone differently, and those who have developed a tolerance can operate effectively with higher concentrations of THC in their blood. Still, if you show signs that you may be impaired while driving, and there is marijuana in your system, you could face a marijuana DUI charge.
This lack of a legal standard by which a person can be deemed too high to drive could make it easier for your criminal defense lawyer to challenge your marijuana DUI.
Police Can’t Prove That You Were High or How High You Were
There is no objective way for police officers to test whether your mental faculties were challenged at the time of your arrest, so it could be more difficult for the prosecution to prove that you were under the influence of marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt. To show that you may have been impaired by marijuana when they arrested you, police officers must rely on less reliable evidence, such as their observations regarding your:
- Driving patterns
- Statements you made to them before they arrested you
- Whether you smell like marijuana
- Performance on field sobriety tests
- Possession of marijuana in your car
Additionally, it’s important to know that THC can stay in your system for up to 30 days. So, if you consent to a blood test after being arrested for DUI, it can hurt your case for police to show there was THC in your system when they arrested you.
Driving High Looks a Lot Like Driving Drunk
Drivers who are drunk on alcohol and high on marijuana display similar driving behaviors. These include:
- Weaving within a single lane
- Swerving between lanes
- Driving below the speed limit (drunk drivers tend to drive above the speed limit)
- Being asleep in your vehicle
- Causing an accident
If any of the above signs are present and there is no evidence to suggest you had been drinking, police may conclude that marijuana is a factor.
Your body also changes when you smoke or ingest marijuana. Physical traits police may rely on to show you had used marijuana before driving may include:
- A fast heartbeat
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid breathing
- Red Eyes
- Marijuana smell
Fight for Your Freedom with a Marijuana Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been arrested for marijuana DUI in San Diego, you need to take swift and effective action. Attorney Dod has more than 17 years of experience fighting criminal charges in San Diego and has worked on more than 6,500 criminal cases, including more than 75 jury trials and 400 preliminary hearings.
You deserve quality representation at this challenging time. Your future is at stake, and you can’t postpone the hiring of a marijuana defense lawyer much longer. Find out how Attorney Dod can support your case by calling (619) 814-5110 for a free consultation or completing our contact form. We’re available to learn about your case 24/7.