Differences Between Marijuana DUI and Alcohol DUI

Marijuana with Tube and Key

Being “under the influence” while operating a vehicle means that a driver has become impaired by either alcohol or drug use, following California VC 23152 (a). However, a DUI charge from alcohol and one from drugs are not the same when it comes down to how each case may be prosecuted. The consequences of a DUI drug charge will also be different than those of a DUI alcohol one with different fines and driving ramifications.

How Do Police Officers Test For THC?

As most people know, driving under the influence of alcohol charge comes from testing a BAC level of 0.08%, according to the Per Se laws. However, many people do not know how one is charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)—specifical marijuana.

The main method of determining if someone is impaired by this is through a bodily fluid test of saliva, blood, or urine that a drug recognition expert (DRE) conducts. The DRE will check one’s temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, and will also conduct an eye exam named horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) to detect abnormal pupil size, eye jerking, and reactions to light. These latter checks are circumstantial compared to the bodily fluids tests, as changed vital signs are not necessarily caused by drug intake but could also be linked to anxiety by being in front of the authorities.

Any percentage of drugs in one’s system such as THC from marijuana in one’s blood may result in a DUID charge because it is difficult to prove what drug levels cause someone to be impaired unlike alcohol, which has a set BAC system. One must also understand that even if the drug use comes from a prescription such as one for marijuana driving a motorized vehicle while being impaired by a prescription drug is still prohibited, as driving is not a right but rather a privilege.

Are The Penalties The Same?

One of the differing penalties between a DUI from alcohol and one from drugs is that a person allegedly committing a DUID is also charged with basic drug use, and the consequences may be based on the amount in one’s system. Penalties can be even worse if drugs are found inside the automobile and can also escalate depending upon the amount found in the car. However, if the amount of drugs such as marijuana is small in the system and in the car then a DUID can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The case could be tried as a felony if it is one’s fourth succeeding DUI offense, if one has had a prior felony DUI conviction, or if one has caused an accident that injures a third party. A usual DUID charge consists of these following repercussions:

o 3 to 5 year DUI probation

o Fines that span from $400 to $1800

o Fulfillment of a California DUI School, which the court approves

o A driver’s license suspension

o Jail sentence, contingent upon the case details and previous criminal record

One may avoid these penalties with the help of good representation. An attorney with a proven-success record may bring one’s driving under the influence of drugs charge to a reckless driving or speeding charge. A defense lawyer will help a person not only avoid fines but will also help him or she avoid a tainted criminal record. For instance, such a conviction could prevent one from being accepted to higher education and to competitive employment options, as applicants are required to list their criminal history if asked for it.

Does It Matter How Old I Am?

California follows Based DUID laws for assessing how to give someone such a charge. According to the Based DUID laws, one may be charged with driving under the influence of drugs charge not only if he or she passes a drug test but also if he or she has committed a noticeable form of reckless driving. However, different laws may apply to those under the age of 21.

For the most part, the answer is still “Yes” and “No.” California follows the Zero-Tolerance Law, which means that those under the age of 21 are charged with a DUI if there is any evidence of drugs or alcohol in one’s system. Once again, DUID is proven through a bodily fluid test. While the Zero-Tolerance Law applies to those under 21 years of age, those over 21 experience the same charge and justification because the Per Se Laws do not apply to DUI drug cases. Unlike the Per Se laws that follow DUI for alcohol, toxicologists cannot find a reasonable BAC level where a person becomes impaired or not. A person who has 0.01% of THC levels in his or her system could be capriciously more affected than someone who has higher levels despite logical reasoning.

One should note, however, that in marijuana cases minors are treated differently because a person under the age of 18 is not allowed to legally carry a prescription card. Regardless of driving or not, minors who are caught with marijuana in their system could lose driving privileges for at least a year.

A DUI attorney with a proven success record will know how to present such a case and prove one’s innocence. The primary evidence found in these cases comes from the police officer and the drug recognition expert. Even though there are tests that will show drug metabolites in one’s system such as THC levels in a marijuana case, a lawyer will prove that these levels may have existed previously in the system and cannot be proven to actually impair one’s driving unlike an alcohol BAC level would be.

Those facing charges in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, or Orange County are invited to call the Law Offices of Randy Collins at (844) 241-1221 for a free consultation.