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Last November, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 64, resulting in the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes by adults. Though the passage of Prop 64 has significantly relaxed California’s marijuana laws by legalizing the possession of up to one ounce (28.5 grams), certain acts involving marijuana are still considered to be criminal offenses. One example is driving under the influence of marijuana, which is also referred to as driving while high, driving while stoned, or simply marijuana DUI: an offense that can lead to tough criminal penalties. If you were charged with driving while intoxicated by marijuana in the Santa Barbara area, contact our Santa Barbara marijuana DUI lawyers today for legal help.

California Marijuana Possession Laws

Even though it is legal for adults to buy and possess alcohol, it is illegal for adults (or, for that matter, juveniles) to drive while they are drinking or under the influence of alcohol. The same is true of marijuana. Even though it is now legal for an adult in California to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, it is still illegal to drive:

  • While using marijuana (e.g. smoking while driving).
  • While under the influence of marijuana.

In response to the recent legalization of marijuana, police departments throughout California have prepared for an anticipated spike in the number of impaired drivers. For example, the San Diego Police Department is utilizing Dräger DrugTest 5000 machines, which can take oral swabs to detect not only marijuana, but also methamphetamine, cocaine, methadone, and other controlled substances. Speaking at a news conference earlier this year, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman stated, “It’s a huge concern of ours with the legalization of marijuana that we’re going to see an increase in impaired drugged driving,” adding, “We want to get these impaired drivers off the streets.”
Like the penalties for alcohol DUI, the penalties for marijuana DUI can be rather severe – even in cases where it is the driver’s first offense. That being said, the penalties do escalate as an individual accumulates more offenses on his or her record.
Other than the defendant’s history of prior offenses, if any, some additional details that can also impact criminal consequences of marijuana DUI include:

  • Any injuries resulting to pedestrians, cyclists, passengers, or other drivers as a result of the DUI.
  • Whether state lines were crossed in the commission of the alleged offense. Driving across state lines with marijuana (and/or other controlled substances) in the vehicle could lead to drug trafficking charges, which are even more serious than DUI or simple possession charges.
  • Whether the offense is a felony or misdemeanor.

CA Criminal Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana (Pot, Weed)

Driving while under the influence of any drug – including drugs that are generally considered lawful, such as small amounts of marijuana, or medications that have been prescribed to the driver – is a criminal offense under Cal. Vehicle Code § 23152(f). The penalties for violating California’s marijuana DUI laws may include the following:

  • First-Offense DUI with Marijuana (Misdemeanor)
    • Fine – $390 to $1,000
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
    • License Suspension – 6 to 10 months
    • Other Penalties – Up to 9 months in a California DUI program, informal probation
  • Second-Offense DUI with Marijuana (Misdemeanor)
    • Fine – $390 to $1,000
    • Sentence – Up to 1 year in jail
    • License Suspension – 2 years (24 months)
    • Other Penalties – Up to 30 months in a California DUI program, probation
  • Third-Offense DUI with Marijuana (Misdemeanor)
    • Fine – $390 to $1,000
    • Sentence – Up to 1 year in jail
    • License Suspension – 3 years (36 months)
    • Other Penalties – Up to 30 months in a California DUI program, probation
  • DUI with Marijuana (Felony)
    • Fine – $390 to $1,000
    • Sentence – 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison
    • License Suspension – 4 years (48 months)
    • Other Penalties – Up to 30 months in a California DUI program, probation

If the DUI causes injury to a person other than the driver, these penalties can be greatly enhanced. Criminal penalties for marijuana DUI with injury, whether a felony or misdemeanor, could include the following:

  • Injury DUI with Marijuana (Misdemeanor)
    • Fine – $390 to $5,000, restitution for victim(s)
    • Sentence – Up to 1 year in jail
    • License Suspension – Up to 3 years (36 months)
    • Other Penalties – Up to 30 months in a California DUI program, probation
  • Injury DUI with Marijuana (Felony)
    • Fine – $1,015 to $5,000, restitution for victim(s)
    • Sentence – Up to 16 years in prison
    • License Suspension – Up to 5 years (60 months)
    • Other Penalties – Up to 30 months in a California DUI program, probation

Santa Barbara Drug DUI Lawyers Serving Ventura County, CA

As the penalties described above make evident, the consequences for driving while intoxicated by marijuana can have devastating effects. You urgently need legal assistance from an experienced Ventura criminal defense attorney if you or a loved one was arrested and charged with drug crimes in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County. To speak confidentially with a Ventura drug crimes defense lawyer or Ventura DUI lawyer in a free consultation, contact The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 585-5056 right away.

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The Law Offices of Bamieh & Erickson, PLC

209 E Anapamu St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 861-2363
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