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The Law Offices of Paul S. Geller, P.C

In order to prove a marijuana DUI in California, the prosecutor has to show that the driver was impaired while driving. In other words, it has to be shown that the driver was unable to use the same care and caution as a sober person at the time of driving. So, simply because the person had THC in their system at the time of their blood test, it doesn’t mean that he or she was impaired at the time of driving. Part of the problem with marijuana cases is that unlike alcohol where you can use retrograde extrapolation, there is no test to work backwards to determine what the level of THC was at the time of driving – there is no way necessarily to quantify that. If a person gave a breath or a blood test, let’s say two hours after they were driving, and did not ingest any other alcohol, you could extrapolate backwards to figure out what their blood alcohol level would have been at the time of driving.

You can’t do that with marijuana. Those types of tools are not available for marijuana. Therefore, the DA will use other things like driving pattern, their physical characteristics, the way they performed on field sobriety tests, any statements they may have made about when they last ingested marijuana, and the presence of marijuana in the vehicle or otherwise to try to show “impairment at drive time”.

What Evidence Besides A Blood Test Can Law Enforcement Use In A Marijuana DUI Case?

Police will often try to obtain statements from the driver that indicate when they last consumed marijuana, how they consumed it, how much they consumed, and how often they consume it. They will ask them about that, take notes, and do field sobriety tests. They will take note of any other physical oddities. Does the person’s speech appear to be rapid or slow? Is it deliberate or confusing? They will look at things like driving and their driving pattern to see if they were slower to react. They will rely more heavily on some of the physical symptoms, and try to obtain statements from the person more so than a typical alcohol related case. The odor or smell of marijuana, if recently consumed, would undoubtedly be a factor. If they find a smoking device in the vehicle or on the person, that would be a factor. Of course, the lack of the presence of those things would suggest the person did NOT recently consume marijuana.

Will My Driver’s License Be Suspended For A Marijuana DUI In California?

In California, if a person receives a DUI driving under the influence of marijuana, their driver’s license can be suspended in the same manner as if it was for alcohol. However, one difference is that when a person is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in California, there is a separate administrative action that the Department of Motor Vehicles will take to try to suspend the person’s license, regardless of how things result in court. There are two proceedings on a DUI alcohol case – one with the DMV (the administrative hearing referenced above) and the court case.  When it comes to marijuana, other narcotics, or prescription medication, there is no administrative action triggered by the arrest. There would only be a court case. But, if the person obtains a driving under the influence conviction based on marijuana, prescription medication, or another type of narcotic, then the Department of Motor Vehicle will take action against the person’s license and suspend it.

Additionally, there is one way the Department of Motor Vehicles could try to take action against the person’s driver’s license separate and apart from court under a medical reexamination if the person is taking prescription medications, uses marijuana, etc.  If the Department of Motor Vehicles feels that the person is abusing prescription medication or marijuana, the DMV could medically reexamine the subject’s license, and that could result in a suspension. But it doesn’t happen the same way as in a DUI for alcohol arrest, which is an automatic notice that they will be proceeding under that separate administrative action.

What Are Potential Defenses To A Marijuana Related DUI?

Potential defenses to a marijuana related DUI include ordinary physical symptoms that are innocent – for instance, bloodshot watery eyes due to a late night. Similar defenses, and possible explanations for some of the physical oddities that you might see in any DUI alcohol related type case can be raised in a marijuana case as well. The most typical and vulnerable place to defend a marijuana DUI case is simply showing that the level of THC doesn’t necessarily translate to impairment at the time of driving. The officers will try to find clear evidence that the driver recently ingested marijuana. They can use the field sobriety tests, statements from the defendant, and the DRE’s evaluation to support that conclusion.

The most viable defense at this point is showing the presence of THC, assuming that there was a chemical test, does not necessarily translate to impairment.

For more information on Detecting Marijuana Use In A Marijuana DUI, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (626) 714-3112 today.

Paul S. Geller

Call For A Free Consultation
(626) 714-3112

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