DUI and Marijuana Laws in California: Implications and Legal Limits

While the recreational use of marijuana is legal in California and across many other states, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug is still against the law in the Golden State. But is there a legal limit for THC levels in a driver's blood? How does law enforcement determine that a driver is impaired due to marijuana use? Our attorneys review marijuana and DUI laws in California and explain what to do if you are facing DUI of marijuana charges.

What Are the Marijuana Laws in California?

Marijuana is now legal for adult medical and recreational use in California. However, marijuana users are still subject to strict regulations determining how much marijuana they can carry at one time and where they are allowed to smoke it.

Current laws limit marijuana users to possessing about one ounce of the drug for personal use. If an individual is in possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, they may be facing penalties that could include fines, mandatory drug education and counseling, community service (for persons under 18), and even imprisonment (for those 18 or older). In addition, you may not have any amount of marijuana while present at a school campus, and smoking in public is not allowed.

Are There Legal Limits for Using Marijuana Products Before Driving?

Drivers in California are considered to be intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is at or above 0.08%, which is the legal limit that determines how much alcohol an individual may have in their system before being deemed impaired to operate a motor vehicle. However, California has no official legal limit for THC levels in the blood at this time.

This is because there is no reliable way to test the levels of THC in a person's blood. The currently available blood and urine tests cannot pinpoint when marijuana was used and how much, and there seems to be no general consensus on how much marijuana a person can use before being considered legally impaired. For example, if a person is a habitual marijuana user, a blood test can indicate THC levels up to a month after smoking or ingesting weed. However, it is still illegal for a driver to be under the influence of any drug while operating a motor vehicle in California.

How Can the State Prove That a Driver Committed a DUI of Marijuana?

DUI of marijuana is an offense similar to a regular DUI due to alcohol consumption in the sense that a driver is deemed to be "under the influence of marijuana." That typically means the driver's mental or physical abilities are impaired enough that they are unable to operate their vehicle with the ordinary care and caution of a sober person.

Since chemical and field sobriety tests are not usually enough evidence for the state to show that someone was impaired due to marijuana use, other evidence, such as the way the defendant was driving and what they stated to the police officer. In addition, other factors may also be used to prove the prosecution's case, including whether the individual presented common physical symptoms of intoxication by marijuana, such as dilated pupils, red eyes, and a strong marijuana odor coming from their body, and the arresting officer finds the defendant in possession of any amount of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.

What Are the Penalties for a DUI of Marijuana?

Most marijuana DUI cases are penalized like other DUIs and charged as misdemeanors unless the intoxicated driver has caused injury or death to a third party or has previous convictions. The penalty for a misdemeanor DUI can include probation, fines, and license suspension. Penalties for a felony DUI are more severe and can result in prison time and fines.

Because there is no reliable chemical test to prove a driver was impaired due to using marijuana, a DUI defense attorney has many opportunities to fight the prosecution's arguments. If you are facing marijuana DUI charges, contact the attorneys at the Hurwitz Law Group as soon as possible by calling 323-310-9677.

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