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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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There has been a large increase of DUI for drug cases over the last decade in the State of Arizona. Even if you aren’t under the influence of alcohol while operating your vehicle, you can still be charged with a DUI (Driving under the influence) if you are under the influence of drugs or controlled substances. If you’re convicted of the DUI drug case, serious consequences will most likely occur but there are many ways that an attorney can fight these cases.

So what is a DUI with Drugs charge? Under the Arizona Revised Statutes 28-1381, the law states that if an individual is driving or is in actual physical control of a vehicle “while under the influence of any drug, vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, and any combination of alcohol and drugs and they are impaired to the slightest degree” or “If any controlled substance is found in their body” they may be convicted with a drug DUI offense.

Some of the most common types of drugs defined that may result in a drug DUI charge are marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, nitrous oxide, psilocybin mushrooms, ecstasy, or opiates such as, hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and heroin. Basically any type of intoxicating drug can result in a drug DUI charge. Drug DUI charges can also be known as: Metabolite DUI, Weed DUI, THC DUI, or Pot DUI.

When you are pulled over and a law enforcement official suspects that you may be under the influence of drugs, they will almost always conduct a field sobriety test. These tests may include the heel-to-toe test, the finger-to-nose test, a one leg stand, alphabet recitation, or an eye test called the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test. If they suspect you are under the influence, they may also ask for you to submit a blood chemical or urine test. There are times when it is wise to take these tests and there are times when it is best to refuse these tests. An attorney can offer legal advice for these types of scenarios.

DUI Drug offenses can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony but first time offenders with no accident involved are typically charged with a misdemeanor. The presumptive sentence of a first time offender according to Arizona Revised Statutes section 13.707 is six months in jail and/or fines of no less than $250. There are also court fees and drug education classes that may be involved in the sentencing. People accepting plea bargains and those with lawyer representation normally get reduced sentences with some or all jail time being suspended, which it is wise to seek legal representation.

Because the mere presence of controlled substances in your system is enough to charge you for a drug DUI offense, it is usually wise to seek legal advice. Attorneys can often help get these charges dropped or sentences reduced because there are many factors that may need to be determined for a conviction.

If you live in Arizona and would like a free consultation on a DUI charge, please call our offices at (602) 307-0808 to schedule your appointment. We can also be reached via email by using our secure confidential form.

The Court of Appeals in Arizona ruled in February 2013 that upholds the right of prosecutors to move forward with charges against marijuana smokers in the state for driving under the influence regardless of the presence of physical evidence. As reported by the Associated Press, authorities in Arizona need only blood test or urine sample results showing the presence of chemical compounds known to be in marijuana as present in the body at the time of arrest. Regardless of your level of impairment, or how long ago you may have used marijuana, police can arrest you for driving under the influence. Any amount of marijuana or its metabolites in your system could be sufficient to bring marijuana DUI charges in Arizona. A DUI for Marijuana charge can also be known as one of  the following: Metabolite DUI, Pot DUI, or Weed DUI.

Impairment to the Slightest Degree

To prove that you were under the influence of marijuana at the time of your traffic stop, authorities must show what is known in Arizona law as “impairment to the slightest degree.” In other words, prosecutors must show marijuana use impaired your driving, even to the slightest extent. Any traffic citation – as evidence of a driving error – issued by the arresting office could be sufficient to overcome this burden. Officers might also ask you to perform field sobriety tests during the traffic stop as a means of determining impairment.

By law, you do not have to submit to field sobriety tests. Politely decline the request. This right doesn’t usually extend to providing breath, urine or blood samples. If you choose not to cooperate, officers may obtain a warrant for your bodily fluids, which you cannot legally refuse.

Penalties for Marijuana DUI in Arizona

First Time Marijuana DUI Offense: misdemeanor punishable by a minimum of one day to a maximum of six months in jail. Fines and associated court fees are a minimum of $1,470, but may be more depending on judicial discretion. Mandatory participation in substance abuse program and required installation of an interlock device on vehicle ignition. One-year suspension of driver’s license.

Second Marijuana DUI Offense: Misdemeanor level offense with a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail, minimum $3,340 fine, and a minimum of 30 hours of community service. License suspension for 18 months and required installation of interlock device on vehicle.

Third Marijuana DUI Offense: If the third marijuana DUI offense occurs within seven years of the last conviction, there was a child present in the vehicle or your license is suspended, you could be charged with a felony level offense. You may face a lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentence and heavy fines.

 

If you have any questions about the State of Arizona and the DUI Drug laws, please give our offices a call (602) 307-0808. Our offices are available 24 hours a day and we offer free consultations. Call or email us now.

With the recent approval of the Medical Marijuana program in Arizona there are a lot of questions out there regarding Marijuana and DUI charges. One of the questions we get asked a lot is ‘Can I get a DUI in Arizona with a Medical Marijuana card?‘ David Cantor answers this question in the short video below:

So, can I get a DUI in Arizona with a Medical Marijuana Card?

Yes, under Arizona law the important thing is ‘are you impaired by the drug’. If you are found to be impaired, you can be arrested for a Drug DUI.

If you have a drug in your system and don’t have a prescription, you are looking at a DUI with a metabolite of an illegal or illicit drug in your system.

If you have a medical marijuana card, you can still be charged with DUI if the officer thinks you are impaired by the marijuana.

Now there has been some debate, with marijuana there are two types of metabolites, active and inactive. Active metabolites effect your brain and would make you impaired to drive, in this instance you would have just smoked marijuana or have smoked it within the last couple of hours.

Inactive metabolites show up a day or two after you’ve smoked and will also show up in your urine up to 30 days later. The inactive metabolite is the one that can get you arrested for DUI if you do not have a medical marijuana card.

But if you do have the card, there are arguments you can make that you were not impaired at the time of arrest and there is an actual defense to the Marijuana DUI charge. So if you have gotten a DUI for Marijuana and have your Medical Marijuana Card, call us at (602) 307-0808 because we can help you. For more information regarding a Drug DUI in Arizona, click here.

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