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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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Receiving a conviction for DUI (driving under the influence) in Arizona can present significant problems for the defendant with a CDL. It is not necessary to be operating a commercial vehicle for a conviction to impact the commercial license status because any general driving privilege suspension period will include a suspension for the commercial driver’s license as well. The damage done by an impaired driving charge depends on the particulars of the case and the possibility of aggravated or enhanced DUI charges, as Arizona has structured a unique comprehensive approach to combat driving under the influence.

All states have stricter standards for commercial drivers who are arrested and convicted for driving under the influence in a commercial vehicle. The universal blood alcohol content level of .08 that all states have adopted for general impaired driving charges does not apply. The standard for commercial drivers to be legally intoxicated in Arizona is .04 BAC level. Commercial drivers that receive a conviction for driving under the influence in Arizona will receive a one year commercial license suspension period regardless of the vehicle the defendant was driving. Two convictions for driving under the influence will result in a lifetime suspension of the commercial driver’s license.

Receiving an intoxicated driving conviction does not necessarily restrict an individual from receiving a commercial driver’s license. An applicant can receive a commercial driver’s license if the previous driver’s license suspension period is completed, but the CDL holder will lose that license if convicted again. The law also makes no distinction between classes of commercial licenses. The suspensions apply to smaller class commercial vehicle operators as well as tractor-trailers.

The impact that a conviction for DUI (driving under the influence) can have on a professional transporter can be immense. Many individuals have invested significantly in their profession and could sacrifice a high income and comfortable standard of living for a simple infraction. In addition to drivers license suspensions, the convicted commercial license holder will receive a much harsher fine than a typical convicted impaired driver.

Convictions for driving under the influence can be a basis for immediate discharge from employment by any transportation company. Many trucking and transportation companies maintain a zero-tolerance policy for impaired driving among employees because of the impact on commercial driving insurance rates and contracted bonding agreements.

Commercial license holders should be aware that states share information concerning DUI convictions. Any CDL applicant should always list a previous conviction that is still effective during their drivers license record period. Any application that does not contain a pertinent conviction will be automatically rejected by the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles.

If you have a CDL and have been arrested or are suspected of a DUI, give us a call. Our team of DUI defense lawyers will listen to the circumstances of your case and help to formulate defenses to the charge. Call us (or email us) today at (602) 307-0808 to schedule a free consultation.

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