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Driving High: What Happens If I Get a Marijuana DUI?

The Law Office of John Goalwin Oct. 23, 2023

Marijuana and Gavel on deskMost of us are familiar with what a traditional charge of driving under the influence (DUI) means when it involves alcohol, but not everyone knows what this same charge means for marijuana. However, drivers can still be arrested and charged with a crime for driving high just the same as they can for driving while impaired on alcohol.

If you’d like to learn more about what happens with a marijuana DUI or what steps you should take after being arrested for a marijuana DUI, reach out to us at The Law Office of John Goalwin. We’re located in Los Angeles, California, where we’re able to serve those throughout the area including Torrance, Norwalk, Van Nuys, and Compton. 

California Marijuana Law

Marijuana law in the United States has changed frequently in the last couple of decades. Though it’s still illegal at the federal level, many states have decriminalized marijuana and made recreational marijuana use legal. California is one of 23 states that have legalized weed for individual use for those over the age of 21. Individuals are able to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana flower and cultivate up to six plants without violating any laws. 

However, this doesn’t mean there are no restrictions on marijuana use. Much like alcohol that’s legal for adults to purchase and consume, it’s still illegal to drive under the influence of either substance.  

DUI of Marijuana in California

Whether you’re arrested for a DUI for alcohol or marijuana, the same state laws will apply to you. Basically, you can be considered “under the influence” no matter what drug you’ve ingested and this goes for other substances, including some prescription or over-the-counter drugs. If you’re arrested for an alcohol-related DUI the legal limit is under a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%. If you’re found with a BAC higher than this, you’ll be charged with a DUI. 

Marijuana, on the other hand, has no such legal limit because there are no chemical tests that accurately measure it. Because of this, DUI charges for driving high can be more complicated both to issue and to defend in count. Essentially, the arresting officer must rely on their own observations to determine whether or not you’re “under the influence” of weed.  

Possible Penalties

The penalties for a marijuana DUI are the same for an alcohol DUI. The possible consequences will vary depending on your level of impairment, whether any harm was done as the result of your driving, and whether you have any DUI convictions in your past. Penalties can include: 

  • Fines 

  • Jail time 

  • Probation 

  • Community service 

  • DUI school 

  • License suspension or revocation  

Legal Defenses

No matter what you’ve been charged with, you should always work with a reputable criminal defense attorney, even if you feel like the charges aren't serious or if you think you’ve been falsely charged. The legal defense you and your lawyer decide to use will depend on the circumstances of your case and the available evidence but could include: 

  • Calling into question the means the officer used to determine you were high. 

  • Claiming that although you had smoked marijuana that day, you were not impaired at that moment. 

  • Refuting the fact that you had even used marijuana in the first place. 

Importantly, you cannot use the fact that marijuana is legal in the state as part of your defense. Remember, just like alcohol there will be penalties for misuse (ie. driving while intoxicated) even if when you consumed the substance you were doing so legally. Secondly, you will not be able to claim that the marijuana use was necessary for other purposes such as treating chronic pain.  

Strong Legal Representation

If you’re in the Los Angeles, California, area and need to speak with an attorney about a recent marijuana DUI you’ve received, call us at The Law Office of John Goalwin to schedule a consultation. Our team can craft a solid defense and fight for the opportunity of lesser or no charges.