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Marijuana DUI Attorney in Los Angeles

The use of recreational marijuana (cannabis) has been legal in California for years. But legalization did not alter the effect of marijuana possession and use under all circumstances. For example, use or possession of marijuana by a minor under the age of 21 (under 18 for medical marijuana) is still illegal.

Additional restrictions on the use or possession of marijuana include, among others, the following:

  • You may not grow more than six cannabis plants at your home.
  • You may not smoke marijuana where smoking tobacco is prohibited.
  • You may not transport marijuana across state lines.
  • You may not smoke cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school.

There are also local rules in various cities and counties that may include additional limitations.

Marijuana and DUI

The laws relating to driving and the use of alcohol and/or drugs include VC 23152. That section says, very simply, that it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of not only alcohol, but also “any drug.” And marijuana certainly qualifies as a drug within the meaning of the statute.

You may wonder how the police can claim that you are under the influence of marijuana. After all, there is no “breathalyzer” that measures the amount of THC in your system. And unlike alcohol, there are no specific guidelines about how much time it takes for enough cannabis to leave your system so that you are no longer “under the influence.” Finally, the mere presence of cannabis in your system can be detected for up to a month after you smoke it. So that fact will not, in and of itself, prove conclusively that you are under the influence.

Because of the above facts, measurement of impairment (being under the influence) due to marijuana is usually accomplished (or attempted) through Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s). While other factors may also be involved, such as the smell of marijuana, impairment is ordinarily determined, in the case of marijuana, by FST’s.

What are Field Sobriety Tests?

Despite what you may have seen on TV or in films, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has approved only three FST’s. They are:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus.
  • One-leg stand.
  • Walk-and-turn.

There are times when police officers attempt to improvise, for example, asking you to recite the alphabet or perform some other act, but these commands may form the basis for challenging the conclusions reached by the police based on the FST’s.

Penalties for Marijuana DUI

The penalties if you are convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana are generally the same as with drunk driving. A first offense is a misdemeanor, with up to 6 months in jail, at least 6 months suspended/restricted license, DUI school, and a fine of up to $1,000. A second offense is also a misdemeanor, with up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, a 2-year license suspension/restriction. Felony DUI penalties are likewise the same as with DUI alcohol.

Defenses to Marijuana DUI

As with all criminal charges, the fact that you are arrested and charged with a crime is the beginning, and not the end, of the case. The prosecution has the burden of proving each element of the crime – in this case DUI marijuana – beyond a reasonable doubt. And there are defenses that can be raised to defeat the charge.

Certain defenses go to the issue of the traffic stop that is usually the beginning of the process. Where there was no reasonable cause for the stop or for the arrest, illegal search and seizure may provide a defense.

When it comes to chemical tests, there are numerous challenges that can be raised. These include not only flaws in the testing procedure or equipment, but also the fact that a number of common drugs (including anti-inflammatories) can result in a false positive test result. In addition, since chemical tests can detect marijuana consumed weeks earlier, a chemical test, and the implication for impairment, is certainly subject to challenge in court.

Finally, many DUI marijuana arrests rely on FST’s, the results of which are subjective. The experience of the officer, the method of testing, and the conclusions, may all be challenged in defense of a DUI marijuana charge.

Marijuana DUI Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

The penalties associated with any DUI conviction can disrupt your life, your job, and your family. They are also costly, and your conviction will be part of the public record. In addition, DUI cases are complex. The best chance of avoiding a DUI marijuana conviction is to hire an experienced DUI defense lawyer. If you have been arrested for DUI marijuana, or any DUI charge, contact CBS Law for a free consultation, where we will provide you with our assessment of your case. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005

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