California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) makes it unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence "of any drug." Marijuana is considered a "drug" for purposes of California DUI law. Unlike California DUI alcohol law, which presumes that your ability to drive is impaired if you have a BAC of .08 or greater, there is no "per se" THC amount, the active ingredient in marijuana, that automatically presumes that you are DUI. However, if a police officer believes that your mental abilities are impaired and that you cannot drive with the same caution of a sober person using ordinary care under similar circumstances, you will be arrested for DUI.
Evidence Against You in DUI Marijuana Cases
If a driver is detained on suspicion of marijuana DUI, the police officer will initially conduct a DUI investigation similar to that used investigating an alcohol DUI and conduct field sobriety tests (FST) to determine if the driver is impaired. There are several standardized FST's that are used during a DUI investigation, the most common being the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk-and-Turn (WAT), and the One-Leg Stand (OLS) tests. Visit our DUI BLOG for a detailed discussion of FST's. After conducting these tests, if the police officer believes that the person has been using marijuana, instead of alcohol, or in addition to alcohol, the officer will likely request a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to assist with the DUI investigation. The DRE is trained to look for specific signs that a driver is under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, including dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, a dry "cotton" mouth, discolored tongue, lack of focus or inability to concentrate, and a slow reaction time. If you do poorly on the FST's, were driving erratically, were involved in an accident, or the DRE believes you have displayed signs that you are under the influence of marijuana, you will be arrested for DUI and required to submit to a blood test. This is mandated by California's "implied consent law." (Although the legality of requiring a person to take a blood test without obtaining a warrant is in doubt following the United States Supreme Court decision in the Birchfield v. North Dakota case). If a driver does not agree to take the test the police can still get a warrant to forcibly take your blood. It will be deemed a "refusal" which will result in a minimum one year drivers' license suspension, and longer if the driver has prior DUI convictions.
Problems with Marijuana Testing
There are a number of problems with marijuana tests to determine if a driver is DUI. Foremost, the medical community cannot agree as to what percentage of THC in your system affects your ability to drive safely. Alcohol has a "per se" limit of .08 percent, which means that if your post arrest chemical test result is .08 BAC or greater it is presumed that your ability to drive is impaired. There is no "per se" limit for marijuana under California law. The Auto Club has concluded that "Legal limits, also known as per se limits for marijuana driving are arbitrary and unsupported by evidence."
Additionally, THC can be detected in your system for up to 12 hours after consumption, possibly longer in regular marijuana users, long after the effects have worn off and would no longer affect your ability to drive. Studies show that first time smokers usually test positive for marijuana for 5 to 8 days after using. Smokers that get high 5 to 6 times a week will test positive for over a month after smoking. This is significant in DUI cases. A person placed under arrest for suspicion of DUI marijuana may not have consumed any marijuana at all, meaning the police were mistaken, however the blood result comes back positive for THC because they smoked a few days earlier. The person in this situation will need a good DUI Lawyer to beat the unfounded DUI charges that have been brought against him or her.
Consultation With Experienced DUI Lawyer
Marijuana DUI cases are difficult for the prosecution to prove. Studies have shown frequent marijuana users may show fewer behavioral signs of disruption during intoxication than infrequent users and develop a tolerance to the impairing effects of THC on neurocognitive task performance. A good DUI Lawyer knows how to use these studies to help your case in both negotiations with the prosecutor and in trial. Do not assume you are guilty because you have been arrested for marijuana DUI in Los Angeles. If you have been arrested for DUI speak to a lawyer today and call Berglund Law Office, P.C. at (323) 374-3520 or fill out the form on our CONTACT page for a free and confidential consultation. DUI Attorney Robert D. Berglund will personally speak with you about the facts of your case. Do not go to Court alone not understanding your legal rights. CONTACT a good Los Angeles DUI Lawyer today.