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Why Can You Be Charged with DUI for Using Marijuana in a Parked Vehicle?Though recreational marijuana is legal in California, there are still many restrictions on how you can use it. For instance, you are not allowed to have marijuana in an open container in your vehicle. When transporting marijuana, it must be in a sealed container. Using marijuana in a parked vehicle may be a violation if you are near a public place where use is restricted, such as a school. There is also the possibility that you could be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana if you are caught using the substance in a parked vehicle.

Marijuana DUI Without Driving

A police officer does not need to have witnessed you driving in order to arrest you on suspicion of DUI involving alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. There may be circumstantial evidence that you had recently been driving, such as:

  • Where your vehicle is parked
  • Whether the vehicle is still running or the keys are in the ignition
  • Whether you are sitting in the driver’s seat

Combining this evidence with a reasonable suspicion that you are impaired from marijuana use may be enough for the police officer to arrest you for DUI.

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What Are the Penalties for Having an Open Alcohol Container in Your Car?When it comes to criminal law, alcohol does not mix well with driving. Drivers should know that it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol, which California defines as having a blood alcohol concentration that is greater than 0.08 percent. It can also be illegal to possess an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle, depending on where the beverage is and what has been done with it. Violating the open container law in California is not as serious as being convicted for DUI, but the consequences can eventually add up to more serious penalties.

Defining Open Containers

An open container violation can occur if a police officer notices a container in plain view inside of a vehicle or discovers it during an authorized vehicle search. California law deems an alcohol container to be open if:

  • The top has been opened
  • A seal has been broken
  • The container is partially or totally emptied

The officer does not need to catch you drinking the beverage or driving the vehicle to issue a citation for an open container violation.

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Compounding a DUI with a Hit-and-Run ChargeA person who gets into a vehicle accident may panic and flee the scene before police arrive – especially if they fear that the officer may arrest them for a crime such as driving under the influence. A hit-and-run charge involving personal injury or death can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the injuries and the circumstances of the accident. The same applies to DUI with injury and DUI vehicular manslaughter charges. The penalties become more severe when you combine a DUI charge with a hit-and-run charge. However, California is trying to fix a loophole in its criminal code that can benefit people suspected of DUI who flee an accident.

Hit-and-Run vs. DUI

It is difficult for prosecutors to prove that someone charged with a hit-and-run was also under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident. It may be hours or days before the defendant is arrested for the hit-and-run, by which point there is no longer chemical evidence of DUI. While a hit-and-run is still a serious charge, consider the difference in penalties:

  • A felony hit-and-run causing basic injury carries up to three years in prison, and a felony hit-and-run causing serious injury or death carries up to four years in prison.
  • A felony DUI with injury carries up to six years in prison, and a felony DUI manslaughter with gross negligence carries up to 10 years in prison.

Thus, a drunk driver who commits a hit-and-run could receive a lesser punishment than if they had remained at the scene. California legislators recently proposed a law that would increase the maximum prison sentence for a hit-and-run resulting in death to six years.

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DUI in California Can Cost Tens of Thousands of DollarsThere is a price to pay if you are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Many people think of the possibility of jail time and the likely loss of their driving privileges, but there is also a monetary cost to a conviction or even being arrested. A DUI conviction in California costs between $10,000 and $15,000 on average, with the cost going higher depending on the severity of the charge and other circumstances. The cost includes fees that are directly related to your conviction and expenses that can be tied back to the conviction:

  1. Fines: Punishment for a DUI conviction includes a fine, which can be from $390 to $1,000. The fine for a DUI conviction involving an injury can go as high as $5,000.
  2. Court Fees: On top of the fine, the court will charge an administrative fee to help pay for its operating expenses. The exact amount will vary by court, but the fee can be more than $1,000.
  3. Victim Compensation Fee: Those who are convicted of DUI in California must pay a fee to the California Victim Compensation Fund, even if no one was injured during their incident.
  4. Legal Fees: The best way to prevent a DUI conviction and to avoid the related fees is to hire a criminal defense attorney. However, you will need to pay the attorney for their services.
  5. Vehicle Towing Fees: After you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, your vehicle will be towed and impounded at your expense. Paying to get your vehicle back will likely cost hundreds of dollars.
  6. Ignition Interlock Fees: The court may order you to install a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) on your vehicle as a condition for allowing you to drive. A BAIID costs drivers an average of $70 to $100 per month, including the initial installation fee and ongoing maintenance fees.
  7. Class Fees: Many people convicted of DUI must attend classes on the dangers of drunk driving, which can cost several hundred dollars.
  8. License Reinstatement Fee: Applying to reinstate your driver’s license after it has been suspended will cost $125.
  9. Insurance Increases: Your auto insurance provider will likely increase your rate because you will be viewed as a higher-risk client. The increase could cost thousands of dollars over several years until you are able to establish a record of safe driving.
  10. Lost Wages: Attending court for your DUI case will likely interfere with your work, causing you to miss time. If you are convicted of DUI, you may lose your job, especially if your job requires you to drive.

There are other potential costs that do not apply to every case but could be expensive, such as having to post bail or an accident victim filing a lawsuit against you.

Contact a Richmond, California, DUI Defense Attorney

The cost of a DUI case will go down considerably if you can prevent a conviction. Schedule a free consultation with a San Francisco DUI defense lawyer at Burglin Law Office, P.C., by calling 415-729-7300.

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Using Video Evidence to Your Advantage in a DUI CaseWhen trying to prove whether or not a driver was intoxicated at the time of their arrest, video footage from the scene can be compelling evidence. Instead of relying on individual testimony, the court can see the circumstances leading up to the arrest and how the officer and arrestee behaved during the incident. If you have been charged with driving under the influence in California, you need to obtain available video recordings from your arrest to determine whether they would be helpful evidence during your case.

How to Obtain Video

Many police officers are required to have dashboard cameras on their vehicles and body cameras on themselves. Unfortunately, the state will not automatically provide this evidence to you for the purpose of your defense case. Your defense attorney must submit a discovery request with the court to obtain the video evidence. If the prosecution refuses to turn over the video, you will need to file a formal discovery motion to force them to comply.

There may be video evidence from a surveillance camera for a nearby property that recorded your DUI arrest. To obtain this video evidence, you will need to file a subpoena with the video’s owner.

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