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What Is The Current DUI Law In California Related To Marijuana Use?

In California, when someone gets convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana or other drugs, the prosecution, the DEA’s office, has to be able to show that someone was indeed driving while impaired by the drug at the time. In other words, they would have to prove that someone was driving while impaired by marijuana. The burden of proof falls on the prosecution, and it is like any other misdemeanor in California. They have to be able to show proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

When someone gets pulled over and arrested, the officer does an investigation. They need to show that impairment was going on during the driving, and that is shown in a police report. In the police report, the officer testifies with drug experts or a toxicologist from the crime lab that the driver did test for marijuana. A blood test is typically what they use, and they’ll enlist different people, results, and reports to show the impairment. Now, the type of driving is something that will be looked at. Poor driving, such as weaving, driving too slow, or erratic movement in or outside of the lane, can be a reason for a stop, which the officer will try to say was due to the drug or marijuana that the person was allegedly on. Sometimes, they’ll even say that the driver was speeding on marijuana, which is actually contrary to what studies show.

When an officer approaches someone, they’re often recording what’s going on. They’re also looking for bloodshot watery eyes, slow or slurred speech, and unsteady gait. They’ll put the driver through field tests to try to show that if they didn’t do well on the tests, they were impaired. However, standardized field tests are designed for people who are being tested for driving under the influence of alcohol, not for marijuana. For marijuana and other drug cases, they will often bring in a drug recognition expert who will go through some additional tests along with the regular field sobriety tests. The tests are often done back at the station, and they’re going to check pulse and pupils as well. The cops then testify at hearings and trial to try to show that someone was impaired. They will try to convict someone of being under the influence of marijuana while driving.

We see this all the time throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and all other surrounding counties. The good news is that it is more difficult, in many cases, for the district attorney’s office to prove the elements of a case when it’s marijuana or another drug versus alcohol because they don’t have a per se legal limit. Very often, marijuana cases have a lot better chance of winning, especially if you have one of the best DUI lawyers in California who knows how to fight DUIs.

How Did The Legalization Of Marijuana In California In 2019 Impact DUI Laws, The Number Of People You Saw Charged, And The Entire Process Itself?

We’ve always seen a lot of marijuana arrests in California. Californians like their weed. It’s been grown here over the years, especially in the northern part of the state. And so, it’s been around in high quantity and quality for many years. The legalization of marijuana made it easier for people to get. People are getting it delivered to their houses, and that has increased the number of DUI arrests. As a DUI lawyer, I’m seeing more and more cases that involve marijuana or the combination of marijuana and alcohol or other drugs, which has gotten the DA’s offices to focus more attention in this area. They are getting the district attorneys better trained for DUIs involving marijuana. But the legalization of marijuana has resulted in the number of marijuana DUI cases in California to increase.

Did Law Enforcement Undergo Additional Training To Investigate Marijuana DUI?

Additional training to investigate marijuana DUIs has been happening and increasing for years, especially more recently with its legalization. More money has gone into training officers. Over the years, more advanced training has gone into training drug recognition experts (DRE). Now, there’s a newer shorter version of that, and it doesn’t require much advanced training. It does not qualify someone to be as observant in DUI drug marijuana cases. However, for both types of training, the level of training and accuracy of figuring out if someone is under the influence while relating it to driving, compared to most scientists, is very poor. To become qualified, the amount of accuracy that you need to show in your training when you’re dealing with actual people who are arrested for different drug or DUI offences while driving, is very low. It’s not like in school where you need to get 90% for an A, 80% for a B, or 60% for a D. It’s lower than that. They do not have to show high accuracy. The reason for that is because the different types of drugs that are tested for are very difficult to predict and interpret. There are so many different symptoms involved that can overlap or be distinct in different people.

Recognizing what someone is on, testing them, and being able to say what it is, is very difficult. And, very often what they guess is not backed up by science when their blood is taken and the chemical test result is revealed. There’s a twelve-step evaluation that an officer goes through when training to determine whether someone is impaired by drugs or marijuana. The first thing that they’re going to do is find out what the person took by having the driver tell them. The arresting officer would then tell the DRE area officer what the person took, or recount if they found a marijuana joint. What they’re testing for is often biased because they’ve already been told ahead of time what substance was most likely taken.

As previously mentioned, there are a lot of tests that overlap with the standardized field sobriety tests. One such test is the horizontal gaze Nystagmus test in which you follow a stimulus or finger. There’s also the walk and turn and the one leg stand test. They might add in other things, such as looking at pulse or pupil size, and looking for evidence or traces of a drug around or in someone’s nostrils and mouth. They are looking for rigidity and muscle tone. They are also looking to see if someone may be under the influence of a more serious drug like heroin or methamphetamines. They’re looking for track marks, usually on someone’s arms or other places, to determine if that person is injecting drugs. It’s a more advanced training to try to detect and determine these drugs. But, it’s not perfect training. These tests are subject to many problems and deficiencies, and they should be challenged. Every marijuana DUI arrest should be thoroughly evaluated by an experienced DUI lawyer who knows what they’re doing in such cases. It is imperative to look at video, audio, and all the records that have come back, and tear them apart and evaluate them to see what can be discovered. There are more issues that can be fought in a drug case, and you have a better chance when you’re fighting. Marijuana cases don’t involve a per se point system like alcohol cases, which can be very helpful in a lot of drug cases.

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Aaron Bortel

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