Although recreational marijuana use was just legalized in Arizona, there will undoubtedly be increased enforcement by law enforcement to detect, investigate and arrest people who may may impaired by marijuana while driving. Law enforcement organizations throughout Arizona were very vocal in opposition to the legalization of marijuana. Consequently, they will be very vigilant in enforcing DUI laws and prosecuting impaired driving. Although you cannot no longer be prosecuted for Driving With An Illegal Drug In Your System, generally referred to as A.R.S. 28-1381A3, when only marijuana is involved, you are still at risk of being arrested for DUI if police believe the marijuana you ingested Impaired Your Ability to Drive to the Slightest Degree. This DUI statute is A.R.S. 28-1381A1.
Certainly, DUI charges involving marijuana are treated very seriously in Arizona. Depending upon the circumstances and your driving history, you can face prosecution for a misdemeanor or felony offense (Aggravated DUI) and upon conviction can be required to pay significant fines, lose your driver's license, complete substance abuse classes and serve jail or even prison time. If you have been charged with a Marijuana DUI offense, you should immediately contact an experienced DUI lawyer who can take the necessary steps to protect your driving privileges and work to obtain the most favorable outcome for you.
There are a number of items which must be examined when investigating and defending someone against a DUI charge. These include:
1. The Reason You Were Stopped - The first issue in any DUI case is whether a police officer had probable cause to initiate a motor vehicle stop and begin their investigation. In most situations, people are stopped for speeding, failing to maintain one lane of traffic (weaving), making a wide turn, not using a turn signal or disobeying a stop sign or traffic light. It's important to determine exactly what the officer allegedly observed about your driving behavior, his vantage point in relation to your car, traffic conditions, etc. If a successful argument can be made that the officer had no lawful reason to pull you over, any evidence he obtained following the motor vehicle stop can be suppressed. This can lead to a complete dismissal of the DUI charges.
2. The Officer's Observations Upon Contacting You - In a majority of Marijuana DUI cases, police officers will claim that a suspect exhibited an odor of marijuana. They may also note that a person admitted ingesting marijuana and was slow in responding to questions or requests for paperwork.
3. Performance on Field Sobriety Tests - During a DUI investigation, police will often request that a suspect exit their vehicle and perform tests such as Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (the eye test), the Walk and Turn Test or the One Leg Stand. An attorney must review a number of things when it comes to the Field Tests such as the officer's experience and qualifications, environmental conditions such as traffic, weather or lighting, whether you received proper instructions and what specific errors the officer observed. It's also important to note that the field tests are generally validated to detect impairment by alcohol. Consequently, an argument can be made that they are not useful in measuring marijuana impairment.
4. Laboratory Test Results - Although police can request a sample of your breath, blood or urine following a DUI arrest, a vast majority of police departments will utilize a blood sample to determine whether marijuana is present. The procedures used to obtain, store and test your blood sample must be examined along with records certifying that the machine used to analyze your blood was working properly. Additionally, police and prosecutors must show that your blood contained active marijuana metabolites in order to prove that you were impaired. Inactive marijuana metabolites, commonly known as "carboxy THC," cannot be used to support a DUI charge.
5. Violations of Constitutional Rights - There are a number of protections guaranteed by the United States Constitution which must be respected by police officers during a DUI investigation and after a person is arrested. These include a proper advisement of your Miranda Warnings and access to consult with a lawyer if you request to speak with one prior to taking a blood test. If a court determines a violation of your constitutional rights occurred, important evidence may be suppressed and under certain circumstances, the charges can be dismissed.
If you are charged with a DUI in Arizona involving alcohol, marijuana or any other substance, it is not wise to just plead guilty without consulting with an attorney. Undoubtedly, an experienced DUI lawyer can be invaluable in helping you protect your driving privileges and getting the most favorable outcome possible.