Joseph P. Hougnon, Attorney at Law

Despite DUI Legalization in California, You Can Still Get a Drug-Related DUI


On January 1, 2018 marijuana became legal for recreational use in California. Although it is a law that has been many years in the making, there are still some particulars related to how marijuana and its use is regulated in the state.

For example, although it has been legalized, you must still use marijuana as you would any other drug, such as alcohol, when out in public. And make no mistake about it, you can still be charged with a drug-related DUI in Sacramento if you light up and get behind the wheel.

Defending Against a Drug-Related DUI

Prosecution of alcohol and other drug-related DUI charges depends on the levels of the substance found in your system and how impaired you are at the time of your arrest. Unlike alcohol, California does not have a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana.

While there are some differences in defending against DUI when marijuana is involved due to how THC interacts in a person body, there are also many defenses that can be used whether a driver’s impairment is due to alcohol or due to other drugs. Some of these include:

  • Improper administration of a drug or field sobriety test
  • Police misconduct or lack of credibility
  • Prosecutorial incompetence or exclusion of evidence
  • Interfering chemicals such as prescription drugs or chewing tobacco
  • Diabetes or hyperglycemia
  • Poorly written police report
  • No visible sign of mental impairment

Assuming there is no serious accident related to the use of marijuana while driving, it is usually charged as a misdemeanor in California. The penalties are the same as for a DUI charge involving alcohol. For a first offense, a conviction can be from 96 hours up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, possible suspension of your driver’s license, and probation that could range up to five years.

However, courts are generally more lenient, and by accepting a plea bargain or negotiating a drug-related DUI charge down to a lesser offense, defendants can usually have a case dismissed or penalties greatly reduced depending on circumstances.

Joseph P. Hougnon serves clients in Sacramento and other nearby northern California communities.

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About the Author

Since 1996, Joe Hougnon, Esq. has provided the best legal services for DUI, Criminal charges & personal injury cases in northern California.