Marijuana DUI Charges in Ventura, CA
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
California law states that it is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug. Driving under the influence of a controlled substance, also called "drugged driving" or DUID, can lead to serious legal penalties, even though California law does not specifically mention marijuana. The ambiguous nature of California DUI law has led to some confusion regarding marijuana DUI cases, especially since some research indicates that this substance may not actually impair an individual's ability to drive. However, law enforcement continues to pursue marijuana DUI charges throughout Ventura and across the state.
Marijuana DUI & California Vehicle Code §23152(a)
After a DUI arrest, it is easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed by the evidence held against you. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we have the skill to combat tough drunk driving cases.
From the perspective of a prosecutor, proving that a driver was intoxicated is significantly easier than demonstrating that he/she was under the influence of a drug; especially marijuana. In fact, DUID with marijuana may be one of the most difficult DUIs to prove in court.
The active ingredient in marijuana is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is a chemical substance. THC will remain traceable in your body for many days after use. For example, police may conduct a blood test to determine if a driver used marijuana. While testing could indicate levels of THC in the driver's system, it cannot reveal when the driver used the drug. This means that DUID test methods cannot actually show if a person was under the influence of marijuana while driving.
Marijuana DUI Prosecution Techniques
If you were arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana in Ventura, the prosecution may use several types of evidence against you in court. In order to convict you, prosecutors must show that you were impaired by marijuana and that your level of impairment kept you from driving safely. Although California law does not require law enforcement to convict you of driving under the influence of any specific drug, most prosecution strategies attempt to show that the driver used a specific substance to make their cases appear credible.
During a marijuana DUI case, the prosecutor will probably use the following evidence to pursue a conviction:
- Chemical Testing – The prosecutor will probably show a chemical test, such as a blood or urine test, that shows THC in your system. However, these tests cannot show when the substance entered your bloodstream, making them unreliable during a DUI case.
- Field Sobriety Testing – Field sobriety tests are used to measure an individual's level of impairment through a serous of simple tasks. For example, law enforcement may test your ability to balance. If you fail sobriety testing, the prosecutor may hold this against you in court as evidence of marijuana impairment.
- Physical Appearance – Police officers often cite your physical appearance as probable cause for a DUI investigation or arrest. If you demonstrated signs of marijuana use, prosecutors may claim that you drove impaired. This type of evidence is not always reliable since symptoms of marijuana use can be accounted for by other factors, such as exhaustion.
- Driving Patterns – During a DUI investigation, police offices may attribute driving patterns (speed, weaving through traffic, unnecessary lane changes, etc.) to marijuana impairment. However, most of these patterns can be caused by tiredness, distraction, and other variables.
During a marijuana-related DUI trial, the arresting officer and a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) will testify about this evidence in court.
Police Investigation During a Marijuana DUI Case
Generally speaking, the arresting officer in a DUI case will testify that he/she believes that you drove under the influence of marijuana because of your physical appearance, driving patterns, and inability to pass field sobriety testing. Additionally, the officer might say that breath testing showed that your impairment was not associated from alcohol. For example, an officer may suspect that you drove under the influence of alcohol, conduct a breath test, and discover that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was only .01%. At this point, the officer might assume that your impairment was caused by drug use. Once law enforcement suspects that the driver is under the influence of marijuana or another drug, he/she will call a DRE to continue the investigation.
Drug Recognition Evaluators
A DRE officer is trained to identify drug impairment. Because law enforcement has not developed an effective test to measure actual levels of impairment, they use DREs to collect evidence of substance impairment that is not connected with alcohol. During the investigation, the officer will try to determine:
- If the driver is under the influence of drugs
- Which drugs affected the suspect's ability to operate a car
If a DRE suspects that you are under the influence of marijuana, he/she will look for these symptoms: short-term memory loss, dry mouth, uninhibited behavior, body tremors, eyelid tremors, the smell of marijuana, high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and dilated pupils. Although these symptoms can indicate marijuana use, they are not exclusively connected with drug impairment.