Defending Against a Marijuana DUI in California

We all knew that the Fourth of July holiday weekend was going to be a busy one for law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, who had planned a blitz of sobriety checkpoints and wolfpack patrols throughout the long weekend, mostly in an effort to nab intoxicated drivers.
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However, our Los Angeles Marijuana DUI Defense Lawyers were a bit surprised to learn just how many of these arrests were made.

In an astonishing one-year leap, authorities arrested 43 percent more people during the 48-hour period from midnight Thursday, July 4, to midnight Saturday, July 6 than they did during the same time frame last year. In total, 490 individuals were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs this holiday. Last year, it was 343.

Between June 29 and July 8, the total number of DUI arrests topped nearly 1,200.

We’re expecting this year’s figures may actually be a bit higher because they were provisional, with some precincts having yet to report their totals.

We don’t know exactly how many of those cases were related to marijuana, as opposed to alcohol or other substances, because police don’t classify DUIs this way. What we do know is that over Memorial Day weekend, officers had made it a special point to target those who were driving under the influence of marijuana.

There was also a recent statewide survey, released by the California Office of Traffic Safety, that found more drivers are reportedly under the influence of drugs than alcohol. The survey found one i every seven nighttime drivers was under the influence of drugs that can impact driving, which is nearly twice the number believed to be under the influence of alcohol. This is primarily driven by the widespread increase in recent years of prescription drug use and abuse.

We also know that California is No. 1 in the country for the most sobriety checkpoints conducted annually, according to the state traffic safety office. This is in spite of the fact that in recent years, the state has seen historically low DUI fatalities.

The Los Angeles Police Department underscored the fact that summer is the deadliest time of year on our state’s roads and that the Fourth of July in particular is especially dangerous for motorists.

We accept that police have a vested interest in keeping the roadways safe, and we discourage driving while intoxicated for obvious safety reasons. However, it’s worth noting that the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana is very different from intoxication by alcohol.

While alcohol has a very specific set of standards for determining intoxication levels (breathalyzer readings, blood-alcohol tests, sobriety tests), the determination for marijuana intoxication is much more subjective. It’s often up to the officer to guess whether you might be under the influence, based on field sobriety tests and perhaps the presence of the drug in your blood stream.

However, many people in the state of California use the drug legally for medicinal purposes. Unlike alcohol, THC, the active compound in marijuana, will remain in one’s system for days or even weeks after consumption, which means its mere presence doesn’t equal intoxication.

Some states have begun adopting certain thresholds to indicate marijuana intoxication. For example, Washington state recently passed a measure indicating that anyone with THC measuring 5 nanograms or more is legally under the influence.

There are plenty of scientific and legal resources to refute this theory, of course, but California hasn’t adopted this threshold – as of yet.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana DUI charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
LA County July 4 DUI Arrests Jump More Than 40 Percent, July 8, 2013, By Jason Kandel, NBC 4 Southern California
More Blog Entries:
Approved L.A. Dispensary List Released By City Officials, July 10, 2013, Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Lawyer Blog