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Operating a vehicle with marijuana in the car is a crime. Possessing up to one ounce of marijuana in the vehicle is punishable under California Vehicle Code 23222(b). The penalty for arrest is a $100 fine and court costs.
Smoking marijuana while operating a vehicle is considered driving under the influence, or a DUI charge.
Concentrated cannabis (hasish) found in a vehicle is punished under California Health and Safety Code 11357(a) and is subject to possible prison time and a much larger fine.
If you are discovered transporting more than one ounce of cannabis in your vehicle, the crime becomes that of transporting marijuana. This crime is prosecuted under California Health and Safety Code 11360.
Some defenses to California possession while driving are:
You have a prescription for medical marijuana.
Legally possessing a prescribed amount of marijuana is not the same as smoking marijuana while driving or transporting cannabis. A person with a medical prescription for marijuana is allowed to take the medical prescription home in the car like any legal drug that may be prescribed.
You are a medical marijuana caregiver.
California’s medical marijuana law allows for certain adults to be appointed caregivers for persons in possession of a medical marijuana card, under Proposition 215. This is by definition an individual who has consistently assumed responsibility for a patient with a medical marijuana card. A person in this capacity may transport a patient using medical marijuana. In this case, marijuana in the vehicle is not a crime.
You do not legally ‘possess’ the marijuana found in your vehicle.
If you are smoking marijuana while driving, you are actively ‘possessing’ the cannabis in your hand. You have direct control over the drug as you drive, even if the marijuana is in an unlit joint in your hand.
If a police officer finds marijuana in your back seat, under the passenger seat or in the glove compartment, you are not in direct control of the substance. If the cannabis is hidden somewhere in your car, there is a chance that you were not aware of the marijuana. It could have been secreted away by a wary passenger or someone who borrowed the car.
It is important to realize that a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer will be needed for the expertise to counter the charge of marijuana possession while operating a vehicle.
An illegal search of your car is made.
A routine traffic stop for speeding is not an opportunity to search your car without a legal reason to search or without your permission. Unless the marijuana can be easily viewed or discovered because you gave permission for a police search, the evidence of your marijuana may be viewed as illegally obtained by the court.
Although marijuana laws have relaxed a great deal in recent years, it is still against the law to drive with marijuana in a vehicle unless authorized to possess the cannabis per medical use.
If you have been apprehended and charged with possession while driving, VC23222(b), please call a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to consult with you as quickly as possible. The sooner the charges can be addressed by a skilled attorney, the sooner your case can be resolved.