Charged with a Marijuana DUI?
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Although most people immediately think of alcohol when discussing a DUI, you should be aware that the law in Arizona allows a person to be investigated, prosecuted and convicted of DUI involving substances other than liquor, wine or beer. The substances which can result in a prosecution for DUI include prescription medications such as Xanax or Ambien, illegal drugs including heroin, methamphetamine or cocaine and drugs which can be used legally such as marijuana. Given the widespread use of marijuana as well as its recent legalization for medical use by those who possess a valid medical marijuana card, the number of arrests and prosecutions for marijuana related DUI offenses has increased dramatically in recent years
Arizona's Marijuana DUI Law
Arizona law prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol and other controlled substances under A.R.S. 28-1381A(1). Basically, an individual who smokes marijuana and then drives or operates their vehicle can be pulled over and arrested for a DUI. The law in Arizona clearly states that an individual can be charged with driving under the influence if they drive or are in actual physical control of a vehicle while:
- Under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, drug, including marijuana, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or any combination of these if the individual is impaired to the slightest degree
Additionally, a person can be charged with DUI if there is an illegal drug such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc. in their system while operating or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. A.R.S. 28-1381A93) provides for DUI prosecutions when:
- There is any controlled substance or its metabolite in a driver's system.
EVIDENCE IN MARIJUANA DUI CASES
Even though many studies show drivers are more cautious when driving after consuming marijuana, a conviction for DUI marijuana can result in serious repercussions, including jail or prison sentence, fines and/or a criminal record. Police and prosecutors will rely upon many different types of evidence when investigating a person and subsequently prosecuting them for DUI in Arizona. This includes:
- The driving behavior or motor vehicle violations observed by police
- Statements made to investigating officers during a DUI investigation
- A person's performance on field sobriety tests such as the eye test, the walk and turn or one leg stand
- The results of a persons breath, blood or urine test administered by police following a DUI arrest.
MARIJUANA DUI PENALTIES
A person convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana DUI as a first time offender faces severe penalties. These include a maximum sentence of six months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. Normally however, the penalties for a first time DUI conviction involve:
- 10 days in jail - court may require only 1 day with drug/alcohol evaluation and completion of recommended substance abuse treatment program
- Fines, fees and costs of approximately $1,750.00
- 90-day driver's license suspension
- Probation up to five years
- 8 points assessed against driver's license and requirement to attend traffic safety school
A second offense within a seven year period can result in up to 90 days jail, increased fines, substance abuse classes and a one year revocation of your driving privileges. A third conviction, a marijuana DUI which occurs while your license is restricted or suspended or is committed when a person under fifteen years of age is a passenger will be prosecuted as a felony. This is referred to as an Aggravated DUI. People convicted of Aggravated DUI face a permanent felony conviction, prison terms, supervised probation and a drivers license revocation.
THC ISSUES IN MARIJUANA DUI CASES
Arizona DUI cases involving marijuana are difficult to defend because, similar to other illegal drugs, the prosecutor need only prove that a person was driving and had marijuana in their system. However, recent Arizona Supreme Court decisions have provided affirmative defenses to people charged with a DUI involving marijuana.
Generally, evidence of marijuana use (THC) or its metabolite can remain in a persons system long after they've ingested marijuana. There are two types of THC which can be detected in a persons blood or urine test. The first, known as Hydroxy-THC, is the active, impairment causing ingredient in marijuana. The other, Carboxy-THC, is an inactive compound which is a non-impairing metabolite. A person who is found to have only Carboxy-THC, or the inactive metabolite in their system can no longer be convicted of DUI based solely on the results of their blood or urine test.
Hydroxy-THC, or active metabolite marijuana DUI cases can be successfully defended if a person possesses a valid medical marijuana card at the time of the incident. This is based on the premise that a medical marijuana cardholder's use of marijuana is legal. Consequently, a prosecutor must introduce evidence that the person was impaired to drive a vehicle at the time they were stopped.
OTHER MARIJUANA DUI DEFENSES
Additional defenses that are available in marijuana DUI cases include:
- No probable cause to stop or arrest
- Satisfactory performance on the standard field sobriety tests
- Failure to follow proper procedures when administering or analyzing a person's blood or urine test
- Violations of a person's Miranda rights
Call (480) 833-8613 Now for a Free Consultation:
If you, a family member or friend has been arrested for a misdemeanor marijuana DUI offense in Arizona, it is important that you immediately begin working with a qualified DUI attorney who can effectively represent you in the court of law and take necessary steps to protect your driver's license. A DUI offense requires an aggressive and experienced lawyer who can recognize all of the issues and work effectively to achieve a favorable result. Attorney Raymond Kimble will have a clear understanding of all the circumstances in your case, along with the knowledge, skill and experience to obtain the best possible outcome for you.