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Driving High — What Happens If I Get a Marijuana DUI?

Oct. 27, 2020

Under California law, the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs is considered a serious offense. Even if the impairment was due to legal marijuana use, doctor-prescribed medications, and even over-the-counter medicines, an individual can face severe penalties and consequences, if convicted.

If you have been arrested and charged with a marijuana DUI-D (driving under the influence of a drug), it is crucial to consult with a highly-skilled and aggressive California criminal defense attorney and begin to immediately prepare your defense strategy. Duffy Law is committed to offering the most outstanding legal services to individuals facing criminal charges for driving under the influence of marijuana. My team and I fight aggressively in defense of your or your loved one and ensure that you get fair treatment. I proudly represent clients in Irvine, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, and communities throughout Orange County, California.

California’s Proposition 64
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act

California’s Proposition 64 – the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act was passed into law on November 8, 2016. According to Prop 64, individuals age 21 years or older are allowed to use and cultivate marijuana for personal use. Also, the act permits smoking marijuana in private apartments and at licensed businesses. However, smoking or consuming marijuana while driving a vehicle is illegal.

DUI of Marijuana in California
(California Vehicle Code 23152(f))

California Vehicle Code 23152(f) criminalizes driving under the influence of marijuana. The law states that “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” A person violates this statute when:

  • The person operates a motor vehicle

  • The person is under the influence of any drug, including marijuana or cannabis

  • The drug has impaired the person’s mental or physical abilities

What is Considered “Under the Influence”?

An individual is considered to be “under the influence” of marijuana when:

  • He or she consumes cannabis

  • The person’s mental or physical abilities are really impaired

  • The person cannot operate a motor vehicle using ordinary care or with the caution of a sober person

In a marijuana DUI, there are no legal limits because the California legislature not specified a per se level that constitutes impairment, such as with the per se DUI alcohol limit of 0.08 % of alcohol in the blood within 3-hours of driving. However, in marijuana jury trials the prosecutor has an uphill battle without the benefit of a presumptive level.

Marijuana metabolites ( can be detected in bodily fluids for up to 30-days ( Active THC stays in the blood for a much shorter time and is what makes a person "high," or feel the psychoactive component of the drug which can be felt within 3 to 10 minutes after smoking. THC levels peak at approximately 13 minutes (

Additionally, our experience has shown that regular users of marijuana's level of impairment is difficult to ascertain with a measurable active THC level in the fluid sample obtained at arrest. An experienced DUI-D trial attorney and the right expert witness is essential to beating the charges. If the desired outcome can not be negotiated, then a jury would be required to decide whether the defendant was driving under the influence of marijuana.

Possible Penalties

While the recreational use of marijuana is legal in California, marijuana DUI remains an offense in the state. If convicted for driving high in California, the possible penalties include:

Marijuana DUI First Offense

  • Fine: Between $390 and $1,000

  • Jail Time: Up to six (6) months

  • Treatment Program: From 3 to 9 months in California DUI School

  • License Suspension: 6 to 10 months suspended license

Marijuana DUI Second Offense

  • Fine: Between $390 and $1,000

  • Jail Time: 96 hours to 1 year

  • Treatment Program: From 18 to 30 months in California DUI School

  • License Suspension: 2 years suspended license

Marijuana DUI Third Offense

  • Fine: Between $390 and $1,000

  • Jail Time: 120 days to 1 year

  • Treatment Program: 30 months in California DUI School

  • License Suspension: 3 years revoked license

If you are charged with a DUI that injured or killed another person or with a minor as a passenger, the penalties could become more severe.

Penalties for Refusing a Post-Arrest Chemical Test

Refusing a post-arrest chemical test could result in the following additional penalties:

  • An automatic one-year license suspension

  • Two extra days in jail

  • Nine months of obligatory alcohol education and prevention program at the California DUI school

It’s important to note that this only applies to refusals occurring AFTER an arrest.

Potential Legal Defenses

Below are some possible defenses against marijuana DUI charges in California:

  • The person wasn’t driving

  • Driving wasn’t impaired

  • Not under the influence of THC

  • Illegal or unlawful DUI traffic stop or arrest

  • The chemical test wasn’t conducted in accordance with California Title 17 regulations

  • Improper testing or failure to follow proper test protocols

How Duffy Law Can Help

Defending your marijuana DUI charges without proper guidance from a knowledgeable attorney can increase your risks of suffering the maximum punishments. If convicted, you could face hefty fines, a jail sentence, loss of liberty, driving privileges, and put in jeopardy future opportunities. It's important that you retain the best California DUI defense attorney to immediately protect your rights.

At Duffy Law, I have devoted my career to providing comprehensive legal services and strong representation to individuals facing DUI charges. As your legal counsel, I will investigate every aspect of your case and strategize an effective defense. I will fight vigorously to defend your rights, attempt to refute the charges against you with substantial evidence, establish your innocence, or minimize the penalties. With me on your side, you can anticipate a favorable outcome in your DUI case.

Contact Duffy Law today to schedule a one-on-one case evaluation with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. I will offer you the comprehensive legal guidance, advocacy, and aggressive representation you need. I’m proud to represent clients in Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and other communities throughout Orange County, California.