There’s an urban legend among many marijuana users that you are actually a better and safer driver while under the influence of cannabis. Yet if you’re pulled over by the police, the officers aren’t likely to be sympathetic to this defense. In California, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or any other controlled drugs. Even a first-time marijuana DUI offense in California can result in three to five years of probation and drug testing, 96 hours to six months in jail, community service, a fine of $390 to $1000, a driver’s license suspension of six months, and a mandatory DUI program. (This includes drivers with a valid prescription for medical marijuana.)
California also has an implied consent law, which means that as soon as you get behind the wheel, you have legally promised to provide consent for blood or urine drug testing following a lawful DUI arrest. Refusal to submit to these tests can result in mandatory jail time and fines if convicted.
However, while police can perform roadside breathalyzer tests to determine your precise blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, no such test is yet available for marijuana. This means police will have to refer to blood or urine test results, which cannot show WHEN a person took marijuana, only that they did take marijuana at some point in the past. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration admits, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”
If you have been arrested for a marijuana DUI in Riverside, California, it is important that you hire a Riverside DUI attorney with experience handling these complicated cases. Since the legalization of medical marijuana in California, Riverside DUI attorneys have seen a number of drivers arrested for suspicion of marijuana use. Yet proving impairment is not always as simple as it can be in alcohol-related DUI cases.
That is why it is crucial to hire local marijuana DUI attorneys to hear your side of the story. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence of a drug or drugs, then don’t wait to contact Greenberg & Greenberg, APLC for an initial consultation.
How Do the Police Prove You Were High While Driving?
In 2003, California became one of the only states in the country to legalize medical marijuana in the aptly named Senate Bill 420. While California has yet to legalize recreational marijuana like Washington, California is home to some of the most permissive attitudes regarding marijuana anywhere. In cities like Los Angeles, it is not unusual to see people smoking marijuana in public, in their cars, or in their front yards.
Yet even in a time when Californians are largely sympathetic to legalizing marijuana, driving while high can still result in very serious DUI charges, meaning several years of probation, possible jail time, loss of your driver’s license, community service, and/or fines.
One of the most common questions Riverside DUI attorneys hear is, “Can I still be arrested for a marijuana DUI if I have a medical marijuana prescription?” Remember: there is no exception for driving under the influence of marijuana even if you have a valid medical prescription.
Because there is no reliable roadside sobriety test for marijuana, and because even blood and urine drug tests cannot provide definitive answers, marijuana DUIs require subjective opinions about your driving. This means that in addition to drug tests, the police can take into account your physical appearance (red eyes or marijuana odor), your driving, and your performance on field sobriety tests.
Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the courts there have developed new standards for determining marijuana impairment (at least five nanograms active THC per milliliter of blood), but ultimately the prosecution will likely rely on subjective evidence to convict you of marijuana DUI charges in Riverside, CA. This means that experienced Riverside DUI attorneys can help you! In some cases, marijuana DUI charges can be dismissed or reduced due to lack of evidence.
The Penalties for Marijuana DUIs in Riverside, CA
The penalties for a DUI in Riverside are determined by California state law, and depend greatly on the circumstances of the arrest and your personal history. The penalties you ultimately face can be enhanced if drugs were found on your person, if you caused an accident or injury while driving, or if you have previous DUI violations.
If convicted of a DUI in Riverside or San Bernardino, the consequences can be devastating:
- Probation: Even if you have no prior convictions, a DUI offense can result in three to five years of probation, which may include mandatory drug testing
- First Offense: 96 hours to six months in jail, a fine of $390 to $1,000, driver’s license suspension of six months, and mandatory DUI class
- Second Offense (within 10 years): 10 days to one year in jail, fines of $390 to $1000, two-year license suspension, and mandatory 18-month DUI program
- Third Offense (within 10 years): 120 days to one year in jail, fines of $390 to $1000, three-year license suspension, may require an ignition interlock device installed in the vehicle, and a 18-month DUI program
- Fourth Offense (within 10 years): 180 days to 1 year in jail, or as a felony: up to 3 years in prison, fines of $390 to $1000, four-year license suspension, may require ignition interlock device, and 18-month DUI program
The majority of first, second, and third DUI charges in Riverside are treated as misdemeanor crimes and can result in jail time. In addition, a misdemeanor conviction can have serious consequences in your ability to find work, and losing your driver’s license in Southern California can make normal life nearly impossible. However, in order for the prosecution to convict you for driving under the influence of marijuana, they must prove the following:
- The defendant drove a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana
- His or her mental abilities were impaired, rendering them unable to drive with the caution of a sober individual
Often, police in Riverside will pull over a driver and then decide the person is high on marijuana. However, because this can be so difficult to prove conclusively—beyond a reasonable doubt—in court, many people will choose to hire a Riverside DUI lawyer to fight their case. A number of legal defenses may be possible, which is why it is important to explore your options after an arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana or any other drug (even legally prescribed medication).
If you or someone in your household was recently arrested or charged with a marijuana DUI, contact the marijuana DUI and criminal defense attorneys at Greenberg & Greenberg, APLC. Don’t let an arrest upend your entire life, make Greenberg & Greenberg, APLC your first call. With offices in both San Bernardino and Riverside, our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers is here to help families throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.