Recently, a statement from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was released warning Santa Clarita residents not to drive under the influence of marijuana, and that it would be treated the same as any other DUI if caught. Anyone found to be driving erratically after having ingested marijuana, or prescription medications, including barbiturates, opiates, and even anti-depressants or over-the-counter cold medicine can be considered “driving under the influence” and will be held to the same standards as a drunk driver.
How Does Marijuana Impair Your Ability to Drive?
While the effects of marijuana may feel different than the effects of alcohol, there are some key similarities in the ways they affect your ability to drive. A large enough dose of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, has been shown to affect your psycho-motor performance, and therefore your ability to drive. It can also affect your attention span, concentration, and slow your reflexes.
What Happens When You’re Caught Driving Under the Influence?
In California, DUI penalties will vary pretty dramatically, depending on a couple different things: how many DUI’s you have on your record, and whether or not anyone was injured or killed as a result of your driving under the influence.
Generally, a first-offense in which nobody was injured will result in a misdemeanor charges. However, if a person has four or more previous DUI charges, or if someone was injured or killed as a result of a first DUI, the charge could be upgraded to a felony.
As previously mentioned, a first-offense DUI charge for an incident in which nobody was injured will be charged as a misdemeanor. The possible penalties include up to six months in county jail, a fine of $390 to $1000, three or nine months of DUI school, and a possible six-month period in which the defendant must have an ignition interlock device attached to their vehicle.
A second DUI in which nobody was injured will net you 96 hours to one year in county jail, the same amount of fines as a first offense, up to one year mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, and anywhere from 18 to 30 months worth of DUI school.
A third offense is punished by 120 days to one year in county jail, two years of using an ingnition interlock device on their car OR three years of a suspended license, and 30 months of DUI school.
If a DUI is charged as a felony, the potential penalties include 16 months to three years in California state prison, the same fines, up to five years license suspension, and 18 or 30 months of DUI school.
It should be kept in mind that the initial fine of $390 to $1,000 can be a bit misleading. While the fine itself will fall within that range, there are many additional court fees, DUI school costs, and other charges that cause DUI penalties (even those imposed for first-time offenders) to cost significantly more. It isn’t unheard of for a DUI to cost a defendant upwards of $10,000 to $14,000 dollars.