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Most drivers are aware of the DUI (driving under the influence) laws in California. Yet most also associate this with driving under the influence of alcohol. Not all DUI charges involve alcohol. In California, it is illegal to drive under the influence of ANY drug, even a medication that has been legally prescribed to you or in the case of marijuana, even if it is a legal substance. After all, alcohol is legal too, you just cannot drive while impaired. Various organizations such as SADD and MADD are taking combining efforts to promote prevent teen car accidents caused by driving under the influence of alcohol.
The California Office of Traffic Safety has started a new campaign to bring awareness to this growing problem and emphasize that driving under the influence of prescription drugs is still a crime that is creating new safety concerns according to OTS Director, Rhonda Craft.
It is estimated that 26.4 to 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. (UNODC, World Drug Report 2012. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/WDR-2012.html). Several factors are likely to have contributed to the severity of the current prescription drug abuse problem. They include drastic increases in the number of prescriptions written and dispensed, greater social acceptability for using prescription drugs for different purposes, and aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies. These factors together have helped create the broad “environmental availability” of prescription medications in general and opioid analgesics in particular.
On November 9, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) made it legal for individuals 21 and older to use and grow marijuana for personal use.
Driving under the influence means that you are driving without the ability to drive “safely” but this is a subjective standard with prescription drugs and marijuana. With alcohol, the law is considered per se meaning, regardless of the circumstances, if you are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, you are guilty of driving under the influence. Outside of arguing that the machine that calibrated blood alcohol content was wrong, it is extremely difficult to get around per see offenses. This is not the case with marijuana (THC) or prescriptions.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles interviewed prosecutors who admitted that “it is difficult to convict for a drugs-only DUI because there are no scientifically based per se impairment levels established for prescription drugs in California. There are more non-scientific tests, however.
Marijuana poses a unique problem because it remains in a person’s system for weeks. This makes it more difficult to prove that a person smoked pot within hours of driving. There are some other ways to test, however.
In Sacramento county alone, there were 410 victims either killed or injured as a result of alcohol involved traffic accidents in 2014 according to the Office of Traffic Safety. The majority were speed related. In the same year, there were 1123 DUI arrests. With marijuana now part of the equation and prescription drug abuse on the rise, this number is likely to go up.
There are some particularly notorious areas where there tend to be more DUI accidents than others in Sacramento:
Marijuana, though legal in the state of California can have detrimental effects if not used properly. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Every county is permitted to institute punishment based upon the offense. In Sacramento County, first time offenders will be punished by serving a minimum of 48 hours in jail, $2300.00 in fines, 3 months of DUI school, 3 years informal probation, 6 month driver’s license suspension and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device. Second time offenders will experience 10-60 days in jail, files totaling $2300.00, 18 months of DUI school, 4 years informal probation and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device. These penalties increase with the number of DUI’s and whether a party was injured, which typically converts a DUI to a felony.
The best way to avoid all of these consequences is to avoid driving under the influence of ANY substance.
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