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As technology changes and advances the way people interact in the world, questions that seem rather straightforward now may not be so clear in twenty years. Take the intersection between self-driving cars and DUI cases. Almost since the invention of the car in 1886, the world has viewed this mode of transportation as a source of freedom and excitement. The automobile truly changed how often and how far a person could range beyond the few miles surrounding the place of his/her birth. This technology is firmly and intimately connected with almost everything a person does, and is now facing the next evolution of its existence with the self-driving car. The purported goals of these cars are to reduce traffic, eliminate accidents, and lessen the likelihood that a person will experience road rage, but like all new technology, there are bound to be bumps along the way. The self-driving market experienced a big bump a few weeks ago when a driver was killed in accident while his Tesla Model S vehicle was in autopilot mode. The car company noted that the driver is supposed to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times and only use the autopilot as an assist. However, other self-driving car manufacturers are constructing vehicles that are entirely hands free. Does this mean at some point it will no longer be possible to be arrested for DUI? A discussion of this possibility will follow below.

Who Is Really Driving?

One of the first questions that needs to be answered in this scenario is who is actually driving the car? Is it the driver, or the software system? As noted above, Tesla stated that the driver is still ultimately responsible for the movements of the vehicle, but other self-driving vehicles, like the one currently being tested by Google, are designed to be completely hands-free but still include a steering wheel and brake pedals. The inclusion of these critical mechanisms of control suggests that the human is always the ultimate decider, which makes it more likely that anyone riding in the driver’s seat of a self-driving car would still be held in violation of the law if he/she is intoxicated.

DUI Requirements for Actual Control

In order to convict a person for DUI, the state must prove the defendant was intoxicated and driving the car at the time of the police stop. The legal standard the state must show to establish the defendant was the one driving the vehicle is higher in California than in other states. While California law does not include a definition of the word “driving,” it does define the word “driver”to mean “a person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle.” The courts have also clarified this definition to mean that driving requires any deliberate movement of a vehicle, no matter how slight. Thus, in the context of a self-driving vehicle, any act by the person alleged to be intoxicated that caused the car to move, even if it was just to activate the software that directs the car to go from point a to point b, will likely be enough to, at a minimum, hold and arrest the person for DUI.

Contact a Defense Lawyer

If you were arrested and/or are facing charges for a DUI, enlisting the legal services of a criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between having the charges dismissed or a reduced sentence and receiving the maximum available penalty. The attorneys at the Los Angeles law firm of Manshoory Law Group, APC will fight to limit the charges against you and help you get your license back. Call our office for a free consultation.


The Basics of California Marijuana Law

Jul 12, 2016

Getting arrested and charged with a drug-related offense is a serious situation that calls for representation by a criminal defense attorney to ensure the rights of the accused are fully protected. Marijuana is included on the list of illegal drugs, although it is easy to think otherwise as more people promote its benefits for medical use. California, known for being at the leading edge of new areas in the law, was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996, and will continue its position at the forefront of new law as it considers legalizing recreational marijuanain November. However, there is no guarantee that voters will endorse this proposition, as a similar attempt was voted down in 2010, and legalization at the state level does not get rid of the prohibition of the drug from the federal government. While marijuana use may not seem like a big deal compared to other drugs, it is still a crime that brings real and damaging consequences to the convicted. An overview of the criminal law related to marijuana, and how to distinguish medical marijuana, will be discussed below.

Criminal Marijuana Offenses

Under California law, marijuana includes all parts of the plant, including the seeds, resin, and any derivative substance created using any part of a marijuana plant. Simple possession of marijuana or hashish can be an infraction or misdemeanor offense that carries penalties ranging from a $100 fine and up to 6 months in jail, which depends on the number of prior convictions and the amount of marijuana involved. Those convicted of possession for the first or second time have the option of completing a drug treatment program to erase the conviction from their criminal record or if the amount is below 28.5 grams, plead guilty or no contest to an infraction.

Convictions for possession with intent to sell any amount of marijuana, on the other hand, are treated as felonies and punishable with up to four years in state prison. Items police typically look for when this charge is made include scales, commercial packing materials, large quantities of the drug, and large amounts of cash.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is also a crime and treated like any other DUI offense. Police have to prove the driver was impaired and will require the arrestee to take a urine or blood test to confirm the presence of marijuana in his/her system. However, because marijuana will show up in a person’s urine long after the effects have worn off, a positive test result is not necessarily evidence of impairment and can be challenged in court.

Medical Marijuana

Patients under the care of a licensed doctor are permitted to use and cultivate marijuana if they have the physician’s recommendation or approval. The patient must suffer from a designated illness to qualify for this program, including HIV, cancer, chronic pain, and seizures. The law allows medical marijuana patients to grow up to 100 square feet per patient and 500 square feet for cooperative plots that serve five patients, in addition to purchasing the drug from regulated dispensaries.

Note that marijuana possession on federal land, such as in a park or forest, is still illegal, and government officials can seize the marijuana and any paraphernalia used to ingest it. A medical recommendation is not a valid defense to federal possession laws.

Get Help

If you were charged with the possession or distribution of marijuana, investing in the representation of a criminal defense attorney is the best way to protect your rights and receive a defense that could result in dismissal of the charges or a reduced sentence. Manshoory Law Group, APC is located in Los Angeles and provides criminal defense services for all drug charges. The attorneys here are experienced in the criminal system and know how to navigate it to their clients’ advantage. Contact us for a free consultation.

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