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Prosecuting an individual for driving under the influence of marijuana can be a much more difficult task for the district attorney when the amount of the active ingredient in the driver’s system is not identifiable. The active ingredient in marijuana, commonly referred to as THC, can be stored in the fat cells of the body and testing also includes measurement of latent amounts that may be present long after use of the drug. Many times this time period can be as much as 30 days for those who smoke marijuana regularly. This can be a significant issue in California, as it one of the handful of states that has already legalized medical marijuana. The problem is that no reliable tests have yet been developed that can readily identify chemical impairment level such as a blood alcohol concentration level. Impairment level can differ for many people and an acceptable standard has not been developed. This means that your Los Angeles DUI attorney could have several angles to build a solid defense and cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution, and having an aggressive DUI attorney can make a major difference in how the case is finally processed.
California is an implied consent state, so anyone suspected of driving under the influence of any drug can be required to take a chemical evaluation test. Failure to do so can result in extra charges and an automatic increase in jail time and license suspension if convicted. Even in a weak prosecution, refusal to take a chemical test can mean automatic driving privilege suspension regardless of conviction. In most marijuana impaired driving cases, the primary evidence for conviction is built largely on the testimony of the arresting officer or a designated specialist in impairment. Officers can always call a designated officer and ask for a second opinion, but many times this is not practical when the investigation is held in a remote location or unusual hours of the day or evening. But, there are still many similarities for marijuana DUI compared to alcohol and the penalties for both are the same. However, it is clear that many times issues in a marijuana DUI case are questionable.
Because there is no distinct reliable testing method for marijuana intoxication, there are defenses for marijuana impairment that do not exist for alcohol. The standards are set for alcohol across the entire nation, but marijuana poses a bigger problem in winning a conviction. Individuals who have a legal prescription for the drug can possess it as long as it is in an authorized container, which can also serve as a defense in some cases. Those without a prescription are breaking the possession law, but legal script holders often have a caveat. Depending on your personal metabolite structure, it is possible to test positive for marijuana even when you are not impaired. Testimony that indicates the driver of a vehicle was not ingesting marijuana can also be effective, especially when there are others who witnessed the arrest.
Many times a marijuana DUI that is prosecuted on weak evidence will give the district attorney an incentive to reduce the charge to possession in certain cases. The problem with this reduction, even though it is not an impaired driving charge that could be problematic later, it is still a misdemeanor crime when the amounts are less than the felony threshold. The stigma of a drug conviction is still on your criminal history, and it can be a negative when a jail sentence is imposed because this impacts eligibility for an expungement later if the case is requested for sealing of the record.