California is one of several states that prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any substance. California Vehicle Cod 23152 makes it clear that is illegal to be behind the wheel of a vehicle after taking drugs, using any type of alcohol or using a combination of substances. Though you may think that the prosecutors and police officers must prove that you used those substances, they simply need to provide a valid reason why the officer who stopped you believed that you were under the influence. In most cases, presenting a copy of your medical marijuana card will not help you beat a DUI charge.
What Happens in Court?
Whether you have a California driver’s license or a valid license from another state, the prosecution in your case must prove that you were under the influence of one or more substances and driving at the time of your charge. The officer can present dash cam footage that shows you behind the wheel or bring witnesses from the scene to prove the case. Unless the prosecution can prove without a doubt that you operated a motor vehicle while under the influence, the court cannot charge you with a DUI.
What Tests Prove a DUI?
A breathalyzer is the most common test that law enforcement professionals use to prove that an individual was under the influence of alcohol at the time of an arrest or charge. This test looks like a small electronic device with a tube at one end that you will blow into with the tube between your lips. Police officers at the scene will immediately know your BAC. Officers can also perform a skills test on the scene and ask you to do simple things to see if you are inebriated.
What Happens if You Refuse a Test?
If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test at the scene, the police can take you back to the station and hold you overnight or for several hours. Police also have the authority to do a blood test, which will show your exact BAC at the time. Refusing to take the test can result in the state suspending your license for a full year. If you refused to take the test in the last 10 years, you may lose your license for an even longer period of time.
What About Marijuana?
While there are tests for checking your BAC, there aren’t any similar tests for checking you for marijuana usage. A blood test can indicate the presence of the drug but will not indicate how recently you used the drug or how much of it you used. Blood tests can bring up a positive result, even if you used marijuana more than 24 hours ago. The officer may attempt to show that you were inebriated because you failed a skills test at the scene.
Can You Use a Marijuana Defense?
Even if you saw a doctor and have a legal prescription for marijuana, you cannot use the card that you have as a defense in one of these cases. State code makes it illegal to operate a moving vehicle while under the influence of any substance, which includes all prescription drugs. Using marijuana can slow down your reaction time and make it difficult for you to avoid accidents on the road, but it can also lead to you making decisions that lead to accidents.
Having a medical marijuana card gives you the legal right to purchase the drug from dispensaries and use the drug to combat symptoms of diseases and medical conditions like anxiety of chronic pain. It does not give you the right to use the substance whenever you want or to do simple tasks like driving or working while under the influence. Officers can still pull you over and charge you with a DUI for driving erratically while on the road.
As there aren’t many tests that prosecutors can use to prove you were under the influence of marijuana at the time an officer pulled you over, there is a chance that you can avoid fines or jail time for one of these charges. The court will need to prove without a doubt that you used marijuana while driving that vehicle. At H&M Law, we can help you set up a defense for a DUI charge that doesn’t focus on your medical marijuana card.