Defenses to Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

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Driving under the influence of marijuana is a serious charge with serious consequences. The best way for an individual charged with this offense to avoid the harsh penalties that can be imposed in connection with this type of DUI is for him or her to hire a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in California driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) defense.

Defenses to driving under the influence of marijuana are numerous and include simple arguments, Constitutional right violations and scientific evidence. Because DUI law is technical and specific, only a qualified criminal attorney who has mastered this area of the law should attempt to employ these defenses.

Simple defense arguments may be raised when part of the investigation just doesn’t make sense. A savvy attorney knows that he or she can question the officer with respect to the accused driver’s driving pattern, as marijuana typically doesn’t yield any specific driving behavior. The attorney knows that he or she challenge the field sobriety tests (FSTs), as they were designed to test impairment related to alcohol, not drugs. The attorney knows that he or she can address the many innocent explanations for the signs and symptoms that are commonly associated with marijuana use (such as illness, fatigue and nerves) – explanations that the officer never even bothered to inquire about. The attorney also knows that he or she can cross-examine the prosecution’s drug recognition expert (DRE) about the fact that he hasn’t received any medical training even though he’s evaluating the suspect’s body.

Constitutional violations include anything that the officer did illegally with respect to the stop, detention, arrest and/or collection of evidence. If the officer didn’t have “reasonable suspicion” when he or she pulled the driver over, if the officer didn’t have “probable cause” to order the driver out of the car, if the driver wasn’t displaying signs of impairment, if the officer illegally searched the car or the driver or if the officer didn’t give the suspect the choice of a blood or urine test, these are the kinds of defenses that a skilled California DUID attorney will raise.

Scientific defenses are the most difficult to argue. It takes an attorney who truly understands the science behind chemical testing and how marijuana affects the body to effectively articulate these types of defenses to a judge and jury in a manner in which they, too, can understand and appreciate the arguments. Some scientific defenses include how the blood or urine sample was collected and stored, as there are very strict guidelines that regulate sample collection (especially with respect to blood) and what must be done with the sample one’s it’s been collected. The “chain of custody” also raises issues, because it must be guaranteed that there was no possibility that the sample analyzed belonged to someone other than the accused driver. Perhaps the most important scientific defense is that a chemical test indicating marijuana use is not necessarily indicative of impairment. The defendant’s lawyer must be able to explain (with the help of a criminalist) that marijuana can linger in the body for days and even weeks following use – a critical issue to raise in a driving under the influence of marijuana case where the only relevant issue is whether the accused was impaired at the time of driving.

It should be noted that although a medical marijuana defense may apply to possession or cultivation charges, it will not be a valid excuse in a DUID case. This is because D.U.I. law is unconcerned with whether or not the drug is legal or illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter and is only concerned with whether the driver was under its influence at the time of driving.

The outstanding attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm excel in defending California driving under the influence cases and in defending marijuana-related cases, providing the most comprehensive legal representation to their clients accused of driving under the influence of marijuana. For unsurpassed representation, contact them today for a free consultation.