Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

Marijuana DUI: The Impact of Montgomery V. Harris in Arizona

Arizona Court of Appeals rules non-impairing Marijuana ingredients qualify for DUI prosecution.

A recent Marijuana DUI dismissal was overturned in favor of the state and moved for continued prosecution in the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The main legal issue was whether or not a motorist could be prosecuted for Marijuana DUI when the only evidence revealed on a blood test was an inactive chemical compound in Marijuana. In this case, the drug compound was one that does not cause impairment, “Carboxy-THC”. This is a residual compound known to stay in a person’s blood stream for 3 to 4 weeks after Marijuana use.
The inactive or non-impairing compound was examined in contrast to the known active ingredient THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC has been successfully argued in courts as one that causes driving impairment.

The lower court dismissed the case before appeal, on the basis that the motorist was not driving impaired. But the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that both the active compound and the inactive compound fall within Arizona DUI Law A.R.S. 28-1381, so the motorist could still be subject to prosecution.

The impact of this ruling is that the prosecution does not need to prove that the driver was impaired. In order to prosecute the motorist for DUI with Marijuana, as long as at least one of the two compounds can be identified in the DUI blood test evidence. Another adverse impact is that a person may have used the Marijuana legally in another state, days or weeks prior to driving in Arizona, and still be arrested for Marijuana DUI.

The Arizona Court of Appeals indicated that this ruling shall not be used to set precedent. However, this presents challenges in consistency for the courts since other cases similar to this are pending prosecution.


Arizona Drug DUI Law

Currently under Arizona law A.R.S. 28-1381 a person may be guilty of DUI under the following circumstances:
(1) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs while they are impaired to the slightest degree; or
(2) If the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more, within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle and the alcohol was consumed either before or while driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle; or
(3) While there is any drug defined in section A.R.S.13-3401 or its metabolite in the person’s body.

A person driving under the influence of Marijuana could be arrested under items (1) or (3) depending on the circumstances of the Marijuana DUI. It is not a defense if the person is a qualified Medical Marijuana user.

Criminal Defense Attorney for Drug DUI charges Mesa, AZ

If you face any type of drug DUI charges in Arizona, you should always consult a qualified criminal attorney to discuss your case. Arizona has some of the most strict laws, and severe penalties for DUI conviction in the state. Sentencing for drug DUI charges are the same or similar to those of drunk driving. They include jail terms, suspension of driver’s license, probation, substance abuse screening and counseling; fines, fees, and assessments. Other penalties may apply. If retained an experienced criminal lawyer will protect your rights, and defend your charges. There may be defenses that you are not aware of that could lead to a dismissal of charges, or otherwise favorable outcome in your case.


Additional Resources:

Arizona Drug DUI Laws

Arizona Court of Appeals Division 1

Arizona Drugs Defined Under Criminal Code

Mesa AZ Municipal Court

Mesa AZ Police Department

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