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Can I Get a DUI in California Just for Marijuana?


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When you hear of driving under the influence (DUI), you usually think of alcohol consumption. Indeed, California has a legal limit of 0.08% BAC alcohol limit and someone with that level of alcohol or more in their system could face serious DUI charges. However, DUI also applies to impairment due to drug use, including marijuana. While marijuana is not a hallucinogenic drug, it still produces effects that can impair physical and mental abilities. If you were charged with DUI for marijuana impairment, speak to a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assist with your defense. 


Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana


Driving under the influence of marijuana is an offense defined in the California Vehicle Code 23152(f). The law addresses impaired driving due to the use of drugs and is sometimes called a drug DUI. It states “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to operate a vehicle.” Law enforcement may pursue drug DUI charges as the result of observing someone driving improperly, smelling marijuana on a person or inside a vehicle, or seeing drug paraphernalia, among other things. A drug DUI may be either a misdemeanor or felony


Testing for Marijuana


The active ingredient in marijuana is THC. Tests are utilized to measure the presence of THC in the system. Testing can be done through the analysis of blood, urine, or saliva samples. There are some problems with determining the exact level of THC in the system. While prosecutors may be able to show that you had some level of THC in your system, proving how much and when you used it will be quite hard to show. Unlike testing for alcohol, there is consensus on what the level of THC has to do with impairment. 


Blood Tests


Blood tests are used to measure the amount of THC in the system. Much of the most recent use of marijuana will not be found by using a blood test. The amount of THC in the system quickly goes down in the first hour or two after marijuana use. Thus, a blood test will end up measuring THC that is stored in the body over time. 


Urine Tests


Urine tests cannot check for THC in the system. Instead, it looks for inactive metabolites that are a by-product of marijuana use. These metabolites can remain present in the system for as long as a month for those who use marijuana regularly. Urine tests cannot show how much THC is in the system or when the person last used it. 


Saliva Swabs


Saliva tests work by swabbing the inside of the mouth to obtain a sample of saliva. Saliva tests are non-evasive and can provide law enforcement with a quick assessment. It is important to note that saliva tests are not admissible as evidence in a drug DUI case. For this reason, saliva tests are typically used only as preliminary assessment tools. 


Defending Drug DUI Charges


It is possible to successfully defend drug DUI charges. The tests that are completed may show that you had THC in your system, however, the tests cannot prove when you last used marijuana. Because THC is fat soluble it can be stored in the body’s fatty tissues for up to a month. The immediate effects of marijuana use wear off within hours of use. 


Therefore, a blood test that found THC does not alone prove that you recently used the drug, nor that you were impaired. The immediate effects of marijuana use wear off within hours of use. A low level of THC could indicate that a person used marijuana very recently or has built a tolerance for the drug. Your attorney will argue that THC in your system could easily have been from previous use and did not cause impairment as the charges claim.  


CBD is a legal substance that is typically used for anxiety and pain relief. It does not contain THC in levels high enough to produce a high. Unfortunately, sometimes CBD can produce a false positive test result in urine tests. This can lead to a drug DUI charge that is unwarranted. In this case, your attorney will work to provide proof of your use of only CBD and other evidence that you were not driving while impaired due to marijuana. 


Drug DUI charges can be complicated but it is in your best interest to defend the charges and protect your rights. If you have been charged with drug DUI, contact our legal team at Strongest Defense at (805) 477-0070 today.