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Know the law when facing charges of driving while high

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Drunk Driving |

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, there is a greater chance of drivers being stopped and accused of driving under the influence of drugs. In the past, the focus for DUI was on alcohol. Now, there are inevitable questions about how drivers might be tested and charged for driving under the influence of drugs. Knowing how law enforcement addresses these issues is critical to forging an effective legal defense.

Law enforcement is watching for high drivers

Just as law enforcement watches for drivers who might be operating their vehicle after consuming alcohol, it is watching for drivers who might be doing so after using marijuana. Like alcohol, marijuana can impact a driver’s ability to react, be coordinated, exercise proper judgment, divert their attention and inhibit their perception.

The effects are highest shortly after using the substance – within a half-hour – but it depends on how the person consumed it. It is believed that its use can increase the possibility of a collision by as much as 35%.

Unlike alcohol, law enforcement does not have a testing procedure for marijuana as it does for alcohol. With alcohol, they will use a breathalyzer test and rely on their assessment to determine if a driver is drunk. Drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, smell of alcohol, have bloodshot eyes and are slurring their words will likely be arrested.

Marijuana assessment is more subjective and officers will use analytical methods to decide if a driver is under the influence of it. In addition, it can stay in the system for up to 12 hours meaning that at the time the driver was stopped, they might have had it in their system but were not intoxicated.

A key point is that with alcohol, there are “per se” levels that will automatically lead to an arrest. It is more difficult to discern when drugs are involved. Such points as when the officer gathered the evidence and if laboratories are up to standard to test it can be essential parts of the case. California does not have per se laws for drugs. Drivers can lose their driver’s license and be incarcerated, depending on how many times they have been arrested for DUI.

Fighting drug DUI charges

The way law enforcement addressed a drug-related DUI is currently in flux as testing procedures are not yet perfected. As with any arrest, however, it is important to look at the justification for the traffic stop, scrutinize the evidence and do everything possible to forge a criminal defense and avoid the penalties that accompany a conviction.