Recreational Marijuana Bill Could Impact California Drug DUI Laws

- Dmitry Gurovich

With an election around the corner, California is preparing for a vote on Proposition 64 that could significantly impact drug-related DUI cases. Currently, Californians cannot legally possess, transport, or use marijuana for recreational purposes. Proposition 64 seeks to change that by legalizing recreational marijuana.

According to the Proposition, marijuana sales will be taxed at a rate of 15%. A portion of the proceeds from this tax will be used to research the effects of marijuana on driving. The findings from this research may be used in the future to establish guidelines for intoxication levels for people who have been accused of a DUI involving marijuana or drugs, similar to the 0.08 standard for an alcohol-related DUI.

Being Found Guilty of DUI

Under current California law, there are two ways for a person to be found guilty of DUI.

The first way occurs when the prosecutor can show that a person had a blood alcohol content above 0.08. This standard is inapplicable in a drug case because drugs do not affect a person’s blood alcohol content. Proposition 64 could change this. If research takes place, under Proposition 64, it is conceivable that a standard similar to 0.08 could be created for THC levels in the blood from marijuana consumption.

The second form of DUI requires the prosecutor to show that

  • A person drove a vehicle
  • While driving, the person was under the influence of drug(s) or alcohol

According to California Criminal Jury Instruction 2110, the prosecutor has to show that the person was under the influence, which means that a person is no longer able to drive a vehicle in a manner similar to a sober person under the similar circumstances.

Currently, all drug DUI cases, not involving alcohol, must be proven under this second standard. Namely, the prosecutor must show that the person was impaired by drugs to the degree where he could no longer safely operate a motor vehicle. This type of conviction is more difficult for a prosecutor to prove because the prosecutor cannot rely on a set standard, such as a BAC of 0.08.

Fighting DUI Charges

There are multiple ways to fight this standard for DUI drug cases. On the issue of California Jury Instruction 2110 alone, an experienced criminal defense attorney may argue that the defendant used ordinary care while driving or that a sober person would have acted similarly under the circumstances that were presented to the accused. Even in cases where the defendant’s behavior fell well below the standard associated with a sober person, a defense attorney may potentially argue that the person could have driven a vehicle with the caution of a sober person even if the evidence shows that he did not.

There are many nuances to a DUI Drug case. If you are accused of a DUI involving drugs, you would do well to talk to an experienced attorney about your case. To schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney from Gurovich, Berk & Associates, we invite you to call call (213) 385-1555.