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Even though recreational possession and use of marijuana remains illegal in Arizona, it has been legalized in the neighboring states of California, Nevada, and Colorado. The possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes in Arizona is perfectly legal though for patients who qualify and are approved for it. What comes to issue for medical marijuana patients are Arizona’s impaired driving laws. It’s illegal to drive impaired in the state when under the influence of marijuana. A conviction is equivalent in seriousness as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Marijuana and Driving Under the Influence Laws

As per ARS 28-1381 (A)(3), a driver could be found guilty of DUI Drugs if he or she is determined to have been driving or was in actual physical control of a vehicle and was “impaired to the slightest degree” by any drug or its metabolite. That’s equivalent to a “zero tolerance” law. Under ARS section 13-3401, the definition of drugs includes marijuana. As per the Arizona Supreme Court, actual physical control is defined as having “current or imminent control” over the vehicle and presenting a “real danger” to yourself or the public. Current or imminent control over a motor vehicle is determined by a totality of the facts and circumstances surrounding a case.

Supreme Court of Arizona v. Hon. Harris (Shilgevorkyn) Case

On December 11, 2010, at about 10:30 p.m., Hrach Shilgevorkyn was stopped by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department for allegedly speeding and making an illegal lane change. Police believed that Shilgevorkyan might have been impaired, and he was asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests. After performing the tests, Shilgevorkyan said that he had smoked “weed” the night before. He was not using it for medical purposes. He was asked to submit to blood tests which he voluntarily submitted to shortly after midnight. It was determined that carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (carboxy-THC) was in his blood sample. Our criminal defense attorney from DM Cantor represented Shilgevorkyan against these dui charges. What the case turned on was whether Carboxy-THC was an impairing metabolite. In a four to one decision, the Arizona Supreme Court determined that it was not. Here is a summary of the court’s decision and rationale. It focused on the interpretation of section 28-1381(A)(3).

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If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and are arrested for a DUI in your personal vehicle, it’s going to have an impact on your license. Today I’m going to walk you through potential outcomes of a Phoenix DUI and discuss your options for dealing with a DUI with a CDL.

If you’re stopped while driving and willingly provide a blood, breath or urine test above .08 percent Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), your license will be suspended for 90 days. Instead, if you meet certain criteria, you may be eligible for a 30/60 day permit. A 30/60 day permit means 30 days of no driving and 60 days of driving restricted to going to and from work, school or a doctor’s office. This is preferable to a 90-day suspension. This suspension is called an “Administrative Per Se” suspension, or “admin per se” for short. In order to qualify for the restricted driving permit after the first 30 days, you’ll have to go through alcohol screening. As part of this process, they’ll tell you that you need to take a certain amount of classes, but completing these classes isn’t required to get the 30/60 permit.

Law enforcement officers may obtain a warrant to compel you to provide a test sample if you aren’t willing to volunteer one. The default suspension for forcing them to get a warrant, called a refusal, is much longer than if you comply. Under implied consent laws (laws that state you agree to BAC testing by driving), your license will be suspended for a full year. This is called an implied consent suspension, and like the admin per se suspension, it can be commuted to a three-month/nine-month permit. Like the 30/60 permit, this allows driving to work, school or a doctor for the last nine months and requires an alcohol screening. You’ll also need an SR-22. An SR-22 will increase your insurance rates and allow your insurance company to “rat you out” if your insurance ever expires.

As an additional requirement, you’ll have to put an interlock device or breath-testing device on your car’s steering wheel. In order to start your car or continue driving it, you’ll have to blow into this device every 15 minutes. If you fail to blow into it every 15 minutes, your engine will turn off. Every 90 days, you’ll have to take the car in to have the chip in the interlock or breath-testing reviewed to make sure you never blew above a .020 BAC. This BAC requirement has built-in leeway to account for alcohol that may be contained in medicines or absorbed through methods other than drinking. It’s below the BAC most people blow after a single drink, so if you have any drinks and drive, you’ll fail the review.

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CONVICTION REVERSED | DUI DRUGS (inactive marijuana metabolite) CONVICTION REVERSED – State v. Harris (Shilgevorkyan) (DMC No. ) (Arizona Supreme Court CV-13-0056-PR/Arcadia Biltmore Justice Court TR2011-10043):

In this high profile Arizona Supreme Court case, Mr. Shilgevorkyan was pulled over for a minor traffic violation and a DUI investigation ensued.  He admitted that he had smoked marijuana the night before, and he consented to a blood test.  His blood test showed that he had Carboxy-THC (the inactive metabolite of marijuana) in his blood.  He did not have tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”-the psychoactive metabolite of marijuana) in his system.  This case was handled by one of our DUI Lawyers.  He argued that the Arizona Legislature did not intend to criminalize the mere presence of inactive metabolites in a person’s system.  He argued that the actual intent was to criminalize the psychoactive metabolite of impairing drugs as it relates to driving.  This case was argued in front of the Arizona Supreme Court, and on April 22, 2014 they agreed with us and reversed the convictions against Mr. Shilgevorkyan.  This case received widespread media coverage, and will effect countless future and past marijuana DUI cases in Arizona.

November 3, 2010


In todays post David M Cantor, Arizona DUI Lawyer, discusses the Arizona DUI Defense known at Denial of Right to Counsel. When arrested for DUI, DWI, or Extreme DUI, upon requesting a DUI Lawyer in Arizona, the police must get you to a phone as soon as it is reasonably possible. If they ignore your request, or wait too long, this could be grounds for dismissal.

Arizona DUI Lawyer Advice: The Right to Remain Silent-Use It!

Constitutional rights prohibit an officer from asking too many questions because the suspect might not know their purpose, or they could trick a suspect into making statements that might unfairly indicate guilt. Do not answer questions and do not admit anything.

The officer might ask (sometimes coerce) a DUI, DWI or Extreme DUI suspect to take coordination or field sobriety tests. Sometimes these tests are videotaped. Unlike the breath or blood test, the field sobriety tests are not objective. They are tests of a driver’s balance and dexterity. Only the officer at the scene determines the results. Do not do these tests. A subjective analysis is not something to which a person should submit.

Once a person has been taken into custody (or otherwise deprived of his or her freedom in any significant way), a police officer must advise that person of their Miranda Rights prior to asking any questions. If this is not done, then any illegally obtained statements may be suppressed.

If you are facing a DUI charge in Arizona, please call our offices today at (602) 307-0808 for a free case consultation.

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