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Although medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, it has only recently become legal for recreational use. In 2016, California legalized the adult use of marijuana, joining several other states, including Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. This was done through Proposition 64, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. However, while marijuana has been legalized, it is important for California residents to understand what is and is not legal, as well as the potential consequences that may come with being charged with DUI while under the influence of marijuana.

Marijuana Laws in California

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Posted on in DUI

Santa Cruz DUI defense attorney traffic stop arrestUnless it occurs at a sobriety checkpoint, a DUI traffic stop is often an unexpected incident for a driver. Getting pulled over can cause anxiety for anyone, but being pulled over for driving under the influence can lead to criminal charges, steep fines, and the loss of driving privileges. For many drivers, an arrest for driving under the influence is the first time they are in trouble with the law, aside from minor traffic tickets or parking violations. When you are pulled on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is important to be prepared for what will happen. 

The Process Followed in a Traffic Stop

When a police officer pulls a driver over, they must have reasonable cause to do so. This means that there must be a reasonable suspicion that a law is being broken. Reasonable causes for pulling over a driver include erratic driving or other traffic violations, such as speeding or running a red light. A traffic stop for a minor violation, such as a missing tail light, could lead to a DUI arrest if the officer suspects the driver is impaired due to drugs or alcohol. 

When asking for a driver’s license and registration, an officer will also take note of their speech and actions. If the officer suspects impairment, they may ask the driver if he or she has been drinking. While cooperation with police is often recommended, these questions are voluntary, and the driver has the right to decline to answer any questions. 

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Santa Cruz first time DUI defense lawyerAnyone can be pulled over while driving, and if you are DUI of drugs or alcohol, a routine traffic stop can lead to an arrest. A DUI arrest can be a scary experience, and you may not know what to expect. However, understanding what will happen if you are pulled over and arrested for a first-time DUI will make the experience easier to handle. 

Even if you feel under control behind the wheel, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is higher than .08% this is considered drunk driving, and you can be arrested on DUI charges. In many cases, a driver will be pulled over for a different reason, such as having a tail light out or speeding. If the police officer who pulls you over has reasonable cause to believe you are under the influence, they can ask you to take Field Sobriety Tests. These tests consist of being asked to get out of your car and performing tasks meant to assess your cognitive functions and ability to operate your vehicle safely, such as reciting the alphabet or walking in a straight line (whether these tests accurately assess alcohol influence is another subject altogether). You may also be asked to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening, which is also known as a breathalyzer test. This test will measure your BAC, and it often determines whether an arrest can be made.  

If you fail (or as the report may state “did not complete as explained and demonstrated”) or refuse these tests, the police officer will likely arrest you for DUI, and you will be transported to jail or a sobering center and formally charged. You will be asked to take a chemical BAC test of your breath or blood. If you refuse the post-arrest “chemical test” of your blood or breath, or fail to complete it, this can lead to a lengthy suspension of your license – even if you are under the limit. The officer will likely take your driver’s license and issue you a pink temporary license, which kicks off an administrative process at DMV that is separate from the court process.  If you do not request an administrative hearing with the DMV within 10 days, your license will be automatically suspended.

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Posted on in DUI

California DUI defense lawyerWhile there are a few exceptions to the rule, officers cannot typically stop a driver unless they have reasonable cause to suspect wrongdoing (that includes traffic violations). However, once a driver has been stopped, the officer may then search for any additional signs of a potential crime. More specifically, they look for signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or balance issues. If flagged for any one of the alleged “tell-tale signs” of intoxication, the driver may then be subjected to a field sobriety test. Learn more about them, and how you can fight a DUI charge, with help from the following information. (Note: you are not required to engage in field sobriety testing.)

“Standardized” Field Sobriety Tests

Before the late 1970s, law enforcement lacked a consistent method to detect intoxication among drivers. Instead, they were forced to rely on their own judgment and a variety of tests with unknown accuracy rates. Then, in 1977, the NHTSA initiated a study of the various FSTs being used. Their hope was that a reliable and “scientific” method would emerge. Enter today’s version of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test – a battery of tests that officers routinely use to determine if a driver is intoxicated. These include the:

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Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyerIf you have never been pulled over for drunk driving and received a breathalyzer test, the technology might seem infallible – it was developed by law enforcement, after all. However, as outlined in the following sections, breathalyzers (and other sobriety testing methods) are anything but foolproof. In fact, there are several everyday items – things that would never lead to actual intoxication – that may cause a false positive on a breathalyzer.

The Complex and Inaccurate Nature of Breathalyzers

Breathalyzers are not perfect devices. They must be calibrated regularly, and the officer using it may not administer the test correctly. Yet, even in perfect conditions (i.e. a well-calibrated device, proper use, etc.), a breathalyzer may be inaccurate.

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California DUI defense attorneyCalifornia’s nightlife is artistic, musical, fashionable, and fun. It also ends at two in the morning, which is a bit early for some. A bill, entitled “Let Our Communities Adjust Late Night Act” and introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, could change that by extending the last call until 4 a.m. Supporters believe that the bill’s passing could improve safety for the state’s nightlife crowd, but naysayers are concerned it could increase the volume of drunk drivers on the road. Who is right, and how might the extension impact your risk of a DUI charge? The following explains.

Safety, State Revenue, and Local Venues

Legislators and authorities have long considered California’s nightlife as a problem to “manage,” but that is starting to change. Finally, they see its true potential – a way to increase state revenue and the bottom line of local venues. Part of that could be related to the increasing number of people traveling in and out of the state for leisure activities, but it could also have something to do with the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed dozens of music fans. By keeping safe, licensed establishments open longer, similar tragedies are far less likely to occur.

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California marijuana DUI lawyerMedical marijuana has been legal in California for two decades. Last year’s election also brought an approval of recreational cannabis use in California. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of confusion about what it means to drive under the influence of marijuana. Learn more about the laws, and what you can do if you are arrested for driving under the influence of cannabis.

California Still Lacks a Definitive Limit

With alcohol intoxication, the law is straightforward: anyone driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater is subject to criminal charges. With cannabis, there is no such limit. Recently, a bill that would impose a 5ng/ml blood level for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was passed through the Committee on Public Safety. It is now heading to the Committee on Appropriations. Until it passes fully through the system, the law remains confusing and contradictory. There is no limit, and that means one person might be arrested for trace amounts, despite not being intoxicated, but another person might not be.

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