Marijuana DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles
Proven Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving SoCal
Marijuana is legal in California for medicinal and recreational use, and while legalization may be widely supported, it can still result in criminal charges. This includes driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana. In fact, California lawmakers and law enforcement have given even more attention to laws regarding “stoned driving” in the wake of legalization, and have also faced several notable difficulties when it comes to accurately proving impairment.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our DUI attorneys draw from over 50 years of collective legal experience to fight on behalf of clients charged with all types of DUI allegations, from first and multiple DUIs to serious felony DUI, DUI of drugs, and marijuana DUI. We know the challenging issues involved in these cases, the new and evolving laws that apply, law enforcement protocol, and how to effectively protect the rights of our clients during both criminal proceedings and administrative DMV hearings.
Why Choose Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP?
- Our award-winning attorneys are backed by 50+ years of combined experience.
- We’ve handled thousands of criminal and DUI cases throughout Southern California.
- Attorney Jeremy Lessem is a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist (State Bar of CA).
- We’re available 24/7 and put an emphasis on personalized service.
If you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, placing your trust in our proven team of Southern California criminal defense attorneys can help you navigate the process ahead. Discuss your case and how we can help by calling (800) 462-7160 for a FREE and confidential consultation.
California’s Law on Marijuana DUI
Although cannabis is legal for medicinal use and recreational use by adults 21 years of age and older, driving under the influence of marijuana is still a crime. Under California law, it is a crime to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, to the extent that marijuana has compromised the person’s ability to safely operate their vehicle.
Because the legal definition of what constitutes a marijuana DUI is relatively vague, and because there are proven difficulties in accurately assessing whether or not a person who has consumed marijuana is in fact under the influence at the time they are driving and to a degree that it compromises their driving abilities, there is ample opportunity to raise challenges in these cases.
Blood Tests & Marijuana Impairment
As with any DUI cases, law enforcement officers may base a marijuana DUI arrest on preliminary pre-arrest investigations and any issues they note about a person’s driving behaviors, actions, and physical appearance, as well as any chemical tests (including blood tests) they administered. These tests are also used by prosecutors when formally charging defendants. While blood tests can indicate the presence of marijuana in a driver’s system, they have been notably targeted for their inability to:
- Accurately establish how much marijuana was consumed; and
- Accurately establish how recently marijuana was consumed.
For these significant reasons, there remains no expert consensus as to when a motorist is considered “too high” to drive. In fact, science has shown that marijuana can remain in a person’s system long after its intoxicating effects have passed. These scientific discrepancies in accurately gauging marijuana impairment have formed the basis of many defense strategies in California marijuana DUI cases, as well as in other states where marijuana has been legalized (such as Washington, Nevada, and Oregon).
While there is opportunity for arguing these issues, California law does not entirely rely on chemical test results to convict defendants of driving under the influence of marijuana. These blood tests are simply one piece of evidence prosecutors may use to prove impairment, meaning they can still rely on the testimony of police officers who stopped and investigated motorists regardless of test results or even in cases where chemical tests were refused. These can include:
- Driving behavior (moving violations, unsafe lane changes, swerving, etc.)
- A suspect’s statements, demeanor, and physical appearance
- Performance on field sobriety tests
- Presence of marijuana paraphernalia in the vehicle
Given these issues, defending against marijuana DUI charges will depend greatly on the unique facts and circumstances involved, as well as the justification law enforcement officers had when stopping, investigating, and arresting suspects. While legal marijuana use is not a viable defense (just as legal alcohol use is not), there can be defense strategies structured around key issues, such as when suspects last consumed marijuana, and whether or not their physical abilities were actually impaired.
Penalties for Marijuana DUI
Driving under the influence of marijuana is penalties similarly to alcohol DUI cases. This means first-time offenders charged with a misdemeanor can face:
- Fines and court-related fees
- Up to six months imprisonment
- Driver’s license suspension
- Court-ordered DUI school
These penalties can be elevated in cases involving aggravating circumstances, such as having previous DUI convictions within the past 10 years, driving on a suspended license, or causing accidents, injuries, or death (felony DUI). In any situation, the short- and long-term repercussions of a DUI conviction can impact individuals in multiple areas of their life, including their finances, employment opportunities, and more.
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Marijuana DUI cases are complicated by their many challenging aspects, conflicting issues, and a new legal landscape surrounding legalized cannabis in California. As such, they require the attention of criminal defense attorneys who are not only experienced in California DUI law, but also the unique and evolving issues related to marijuana impairment. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our legal team has experience handling these cases in jurisdictions throughout California, and can help you better understand the issues in your particular case, your rights, and what we can do to help during a FREE and confidential consultation.
To request your free consultation 24/7, call (800) 462-7160 or contact us online.