How Do Officers Determine "Marijuana DUI" in California?

As marijuana laws continue to change and develop in California, understanding what constitutes as Marijuana DUI can be difficult. How do police officers legally determine if a driving is under the influence of marijuana, let alone other drugs? While officers have more proven methods to determine alcohol impairment—standardized field sobriety tests, breathalyzers, blood tests, and a set BAC amount— determining impairment due to marijuana is not as defined.

In California, you can be convicted of marijuana DUI if your ability to drive is so impaired that you are unable to make the same decisions and actions as a sober person would in similar circumstances. Officers can “prove” that you have marijuana in your system through a blood test or urine test, further strengthening their case against you. They must both prove that you had ingested the drug and that this drug impaired you while driving.

But Doesn’t Marijuana Stay in Your System Longer?

Simply driving your vehicle with THC in your blood doesn’t constitute a marijuana DUI. In fact, it has been shown that THC concentrations can stay in your blood for between 4 days to 14 days after ingestion—if not longer. THC can often be detected in regular users for longer periods of time. That means if you use marijuana regularly, a blood or urine test may indicate you were driving after using marijuana—even if it was several days before.

What if I Am a Legal Medical Marijuana User?

Because THC often stays in the blood of regular users for longer, you may show positive for marijuana even if you aren’t under the influence while driving. However, just because you are legal medical marijuana user does not mean you can get behind the wheel while under the influence. You can be arrested and charged just the same for driving while impaired by drugs.

The Role of Drug Recognition Evaluators

In cases where officers pull a driver over and suspect some type of drug impairment, they may call in a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE). Some police officers are specially trained to recognize the signs of marijuana impairment on their own, but a DRE is specifically trained to determine if a driver is too impaired to drive.

Some of the signs they look for include the following:

  • Dilated Pupils
  • Elevated Pulse Rate
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • The Odor of Marijuana
  • Tremors
  • Overly Relaxed Demeanor
  • Dry Mouth
  • Short Term Memory Issues

While a police officer’s word alone may be enough to bring you in for blood testing, a DRE will have a stronger impact when testifying to their findings at your trial. This may even lead to increased DUI penalties. Regardless of whether you were arrested on an officer’s suspicions alone or were further tested by a DRE, you need to act fast to protect your future.

Facing marijuana DUI charges in San Diego? Discuss your case with the skilled drug defense attorney from JD Law. We are ready to help you fight your charges.

Categories: Drug Possession, DUI

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