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California has some of the most relaxed cannabis laws in the US. However, there are still some question marks and gray areas that need addressing, like the concept of driving high. Many people want to know if driving while high is illegal, and what is the legal limit for driving high in California. So, can you drive high? This guide will provide all the answers.

Understanding Impairment

First of all, before we look at the legality of driving while high, it’s important to understand the relevant risks and dangers. Just like alcohol, marijuana can have intoxicating effects. People who are under the influence of marijuana can have different perceptions of things like distance and time, as well as slower reactions and impaired decision making.

This means that a person driving high could make mistakes while behind the wheel. They might fail to break in time to stop at a set of traffic lights or a stop sign, for example, and this can easily lead to crashes, collisions, and all of the unfortunate consequences that come along with road accidents, like injuries and even fatalities.

driving while high

Clearly, driving high is dangerous, but can you drive high from a legal perspective? Well, at the moment, California does not have any legal set limits for driving while high. Instead, the state law simply says that drivers may be charged if they are found to be under the influence of THC.
This is different to the “Per se” laws of other states, which involve set limits of detectable amounts of THC. Per se laws involve testing a suspect – using either blood or urine – to measure the THC concentration in their body and determine whether or not it’s above the legal limit for driving high.

This isn’t the case in California, which creates a lot of confusion for both drivers and law enforcement officers. Ultimately, it’s up to the officers to determine if the driver is impaired to a sufficient level and unable to safely operate their vehicle.

Prosecution and Penalties for Driving High in California

California’s Vehicle Code outlines a range of possible penalties for those who are caught driving under the influence and judged to be incapable of safely operating their vehicles:

  • 1st DUI – 6 months in jail, up to $1,000 fine, up to 9 months in DUI school, up to 10 months suspended license
  • 2nd DUI – Up to 1 year jail, up to $1,000 fine, up to 30 months DUI school, 2 years of suspended license
  • 3rd DUI – Up to 1 year jail, up to $1,000 fine, 30 months DUI school, 3 years revoked license
  • Misdemeanor DUI with Injury – Up to 1 year jail, up to $5,000 fine, up to 30 months DUI school, up to 3 years revoked license
  • Felony DUIUp to 16 years state prison, up to $5,000 fine, up to 30 months DUI school, 5 years revoked license

Arrest and Investigation Procedures

First, officers will need to arrest a person they feel to be under the influence of marijuana. In California, as in many other states, law enforcement may carry out random checks or set up DUI checkpoints to verify whether or not drivers are under the influence.

Officers may use their discretion to determine if a driver could be under the influence. They may proceed to perform certain tests in order to confirm their suspicions, which may ultimately lead to an arrest and charges.

legal limit for driving high

Evidence Collection and Testing Methods

Typically, evidence collection for drugged driving involves urine and blood testing, similar to checking if someone is driving under the influence of alcohol. After consuming cannabis, THC remains detectable in the blood and urine, and these tests can identify those traces of THC in cannabis users.

Consequences of Driving High in California

As listed in the table above, charges may include prison time, large fines, terms in DUI school, and the revoking or suspending of a driver’s license. These are all serious punishments and DUIs will be left on a person’s permanent criminal record, as well (How Long Does A DUI Stay on Your Record).

Defenses and Challenges for Marijuana DUI in Los Angeles

A criminal defense attorney can be of assistance to those who have been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. An attorney may be able to help in various ways, by challenging the validity or reliability of test results, which often produce inaccurate data, for example, or providing expert testimony on the subject of marijuana impaired driving. Lawyers can also demonstrate that a driver has a medical need for marijuana, which may help their case.

Wrongfully Accused of Driving High in Los Angeles

If you’ve been wrongfully accused of driving while intoxicated in LA, a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer can help. It’s vital to contact a lawyer to build up your case and present a strong argument in your favor, which could help you avoid serious punishments, like fines and jail time.

Shaheen Manshoory
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