Santa Cruz Good Times

Feb 10th
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Crime Time: Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

duiIt is against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana in California. If you are pulled over and the officer suspects you’re stoned, he or she may call in a Drug Recognition Expert who will evaluate you for signs of intoxication such as dilated pupils and dry mouth. If convicted, you risk up to five years probation, fees and fines, participation in a Drinking Driver Program as well as a suspension or restriction of your driving privilege. Anyone arrested for DUI/THC should contact a lawyer who specializes in DUI cases. There are many inconclusive factors regarding driving under the influence of marijuana and the THC test results that should be considered.

A recent article in the New York Times illustrated just how inconclusive studies are regarding the degree to which marijuana actually impairs driving. According to the article, common field sobriety tests—which will ask you to follow a pen with your eyes, walk in a straight line or stand on one leg—have been show to catch 88 percent of drunk drivers. By comparison, only thirty percent of those under the influence of THC failed the test. Not surprisingly, those people more accustomed to being stoned performed better.

Studies also show conflicting evidence about the dangers of driving under the influence of THC.  Several researchers, according to the article, concluded there was a two-fold risk of an accident with any measurable amount of THC in the bloodstream. Still, other studies showed no increase in risk and others even showed a decrease in risk. Of particular note, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation said that once he adjusted for demographics and the presence of alcohol, marijuana did not statistically increase the risk of a crash.

Another issue that complicates driving under the influence of THC cases is assessing THC levels at the time of driving. THC is measured from blood and urine samples. Those samples are often obtained hours after driving and may not reflect the amount of THC present in a person’s system at the time of driving. The fact that THC builds up in fatty tissue and is slowly released over time means that, even though THC might have been detected in your urine or blood, it does not mean you were “under the influence” at the time you were driving.

If you or someone you know is arrested for driving under the influence of THC, make sure to consult a competent, experienced DUI lawyer. If it’s time to take steps to safeguard your rights and your freedom, contact Lars Shallberg today at (831) 535-2363 or via