As California's marijuana use laws continue to evolve, so do the laws regarding transport and use in vehicles. Because these laws are changing so rapidly, every year, in fact, it's hard for Californians to stay up to date and in the know about what they can and cannot do with marijuana. The laws are relatively straightforward, however, so it's beneficial to take a look at them before you head to the nearest recreational dispensary.
California's Open Container Law
It's illegal to have an open container of marijuana, in any form, in your vehicle.
Under California VC §23222(b):
Every person who has in his or her possession on his or her person, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, any receptacle containing any cannabis or cannabis product, which has been opened or has a seal broken, or loose cannabis flower not in a container is guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine of not more than $100.
Merely having an open container of cannabis product in your car is not a criminal charge. An infraction can be equated to a traffic citation and does not result in jail time. And this law does not even apply to open containers of cannabis product in your trunk (always an excellent place to store unopened or opened marijuana or alcohol) or to medical marijuana patients. However, having an open container of marijuana or ingesting marijuana in plain sight can cause law enforcement to become suspicious you were driving while impaired. Herein lies the real danger of the open container law. If found with an open container of marijuana, there is little way for the officer to know whether or not you were using it. The same logic applies to having an open container of alcohol in your car. If an officer happens to find an open container, he or she will most certainly start the line of questioning about your sobriety.
Marijuana Use While Driving
Also, it is illegal to use marijuana while driving. Ingesting cannabis product in any form and in any way, including smoking dried marijuana flower, using a “vape” or e-cig, or eating edibles, is illegal. Being caught ingesting cannabis product while driving is an infraction, but it can also implicate you in DUI proceedings. Law enforcement officers are trained to recognize signs of impairment from drugs. And if you seem impaired in any way, you could very well be arrested. The crucial thing to keep in mind is if the officer sees you ingest the product, he or she has hard evidence ready to go. These cases can be more challenging to fight, and this is reason alone to avoid ingesting cannabis product in your vehicle. Don't raise a red flag if you don't want to get arrested for a DUI.
Facing Marijuana DUI Charges? Find an Aggressive Legal Advocate
The good news is it can be difficult for the prosecuting attorney to prove you were indeed intoxicated while driving just because you consumed marijuana in your car. Unless you were showing signs of impairment, it could be difficult to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, you could claim you were just then ingesting the product and had planned to immediately pull over before it reached its full effect. Nevertheless, don't face these charges alone. You need a skilled California marijuana DUI defense attorney if you are facing charges for DUI, no matter the substance. Ideally, find an attorney with years of experience taking DUI cases to trial. Some criminal defense attorneys are jumping on the marijuana DUI bandwagon to take advantage of the surge of defendants. Don't hire an attorney who hasn't defended your type of case before. A seasoned DUI defense attorney will know how to challenge the science of marijuana impairment and any weak pieces of evidence in your case.
If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and are facing DUI or drug-related charges, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. California criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you face your charges so you can move on with your life. Attorney Martens has handled thousands of cases over a span of ten years of criminal defense practice and can fight hard for your rights. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for experienced criminal defense counsel today. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.