California Vehicle Code Section 23222(B) VC: Possessing Marijuana While Driving

1. Definition and Elements of the CrimePossessing Marijuana While Driving

While many of the restrictions regarding marijuana possession have relaxed in recent years, it is still against the law to drive with marijuana (except for those authorized by law to possess it). Under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC, it is illegal to possess marijuana while driving.

Possessing marijuana while driving under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC occurs when:

  1. Any driver possesses an ounce or less of marijuana while driving in a motor vehicle upon a highway
  2. AND the driver is not otherwise authorized by law to possess this marijuana.

California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC applies to drivers on any public road, and not just freeways or highways as the term is commonly used. This statute would not, however, apply to defendants on private roads or private driveways.

Those who are authorized by law to possess marijuana would be exempt from this statute. That means those who are licensed marijuana caregivers or patients with valid prescriptions can legally transport small amounts (one ounce or less) of marijuana.

The marijuana does not have to physically be on the defendant’s person, and if marijuana is found anywhere in the vehicle, the defendant may be subject to penalties under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC.

2. Related Offenses

Similar offenses include the following:

  1. Possession of an Ounce or Less of Marijuana – California Health and Safety Code Section 11359(b) H&S
  2. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC
  3. Possessing an Open Container While Driving – California Vehicle Code Section 23222(a) VC
3. Examples

A man is driving home when he is stopped by police for a traffic violation. The man consents to have his vehicle searched and during the search the officer finds a small baggie (less than one ounce) of marijuana in the pocket of the man’s jacket, which he had in his trunk. He admits that the jacket was his but says he forgot he had pot there. The man is not an authorized user. The man could be cited for possessing marijuana while driving under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC.

In another example, a man has a valid prescription for marijuana and goes to his local dispensary to make a purchase of less than one ounce. The man is driving home when he is stopped by police, who notice the marijuana in plain view on the passenger seat. The man could not be cited for possessing marijuana while driving as he is specifically exempt from prosecution under the statute.

4. Defenses to Possessing Marijuana While Driving

As described above, if the driver is authorized by law to possess marijuana, he or she would not be subject to penalties under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC. In addition, if the driver did not actually possess the marijuana, and instead it belonged to another passenger in the vehicle, he or she would not be guilty of this offense. Furthermore, if the officer lacked reasonable or probable cause to stop or search the vehicle, the resulting marijuana evidence may be suppressed and the charge would have to be dismissed.

5. Penalties

Possessing marijuana in a vehicle is an infraction that is punishable by a $100 court fine, in addition to substantial court costs and assessments. This penalty only applies when the driver is caught with an ounce or less of marijuana. If the driver is found with more than an ounce of marijuana while driving, he or she could be charged with transporting marijuana for sale pursuant to California Health and Safety Code Section 11360 H&S.

6. Criminal Defense for Possessing Marijuana While Driving

If you or someone you know have been caught with marijuana while driving, it is critical that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. The early involvement of an effective Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can lead to charges being entirely dismissed in some situations. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively fight cases of this nature. Mr. Kraut is highly regarded throughout the court system as a tough litigator who fights hard on behalf of his clients.

For more information about possessing marijuana while driving, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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