Is There a Difference Between Drug & Alcohol DUIs?

Is There a Difference Between Drug & Alcohol DUIs?

We’ve all seen crime dramas where a man sits behind a bar, drinks till he’s about the fall over, and gets behind the wheel. However, how many crime dramas depict someone smoking marijuana before getting behind the wheel?

While statistics show that alcohol-related DUIs are much more common than marijuana-related DUIs, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that the overall number of drivers with marijuana in their system has increased by 50% from 2007 to 2014; which means high drivers are on the roads now more than ever before. Therefore, determining the differences between alcohol and marijuana-related DUIs is crucial to understanding a California citizen’s rights.

How Alcohol & Marijuana Impact Driving

Drunkenness drastically impacts someone’s driving, and this typically reveals itself when a drunk person takes to the streets.

Common side effects of driving under an alcohol-related influence are:

  • Speeding
  • Swerving
  • Careless lane changes
  • Forgetting to put headlights
  • Forgetting to put on a turn signal

As drunkenness impacts driving capabilities, so does being high. However, a marijuana-related high impacts someone’s driving in vastly different ways when compared to intoxication.

Common side effects of driving under a marijuana-related influence are:

  • Slower reaction time
  • Worsened tracking ability (Ability to stay within lane)
  • Inability to judge speed and risk

As you can see, the side effects of alcohol-influenced driving are much more concrete than the side effects of marijuana-influenced driving. Therefore, police officers are more likely to pull over and book someone for drinking too much alcohol when compared to someone smoking too much weed.

The Arrest Process

When a police officer believes that a driver is drunk, the officer will ask the driver to step out of the car and perform some tests.

Common tests for alcohol-related DUIs are:

  • Blood Test
  • Breathalyzer
  • Eye Examination
  •  “Walk and Turn”
  • Balance Test

While movement impairment tests (walk and turn, balance) are tests of judgment and can be inconclusive, the breathalyzer and blood tests can be used conclusively. Lawmakers have identified that anyone over 0.08% BAC is legally impaired and should be arrested for driving while under the influence.

However, at this point, marijuana impairment tests have yet to be created. Therefore, someone’s level of impairment due to the use of weed is hard to identify. While there are devices that can be used to gauge the amount of THC in someone’s system, California lawmakers have yet to determine driver impairment in relation to THC amounts in someone’s system.

As a result, THC levels are not a concrete means to identify a marijuana-related DUI.

Possible Punishments

Both types of DUIs (alcohol and drug-related) can lead to severe sentencing; in fact, both alcohol and drug-related DUIs have the same punishment system.

The punishments for California DUIs (alcohol and drug-related) are:

  • First DUI: Up to 6 months jail; minimum $390 fine; 3 or 9 months DUI school; 6-10 months suspended license
  • Second DUI: Up to 1-year jail; minimum $390 fine; 18 or 30 months DUI school; 2 years suspended license
  • Third DUI: Up to 1-year jail; minimum $390 fine; 30 months DUI school; 3 years revoked license
  • Felony DUI: 16 months, 2, or 3-years state prison; minimum $390 fine; 18 or 30 months DUI school; 4 years revoked license

Defense Is Possible

While there are some fundamental differences between both types of DUIs, securing criminal defense representation is possible regardless of the charge. Our firm has represented California drivers for over 20 years, and we will continue to fight on behalf of the accused regardless of the charge.

There is no reason you should suffer a DUI charge without a fair defense. Call (909) 328-6101 now for a free consultation of your case.


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