Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in ARIZONA DUI TOPICS

mountain-road-1424189-m-1Overview of the Ruling; Strategies for Defense and Prevention of Repeat DUI Arrests   

Approximately 37 million people visit Arizona each year, and 16 million of those visit the Phoenix Metro   area.   Whether they are here to vacation, attend school or sporting events, or to see the attractions our State has to offer, many will be driving.

Unfortunately, some will be arrested for impaired driving.  Suddenly, what was supposed to be a fun and enjoyable trip turns into a nightmare.

One of the most common questions a person asks after being arrested for a repeat offense, if they are visiting or a new resident to Arizona is “How will my prior DUI received in another state, impact my current DUI charges?”      

Recently, an Arizona Appeals court addressed prior DUI charges involving out-of-state DUI convictions.  The Appellate court considered whether a prior out-of-state DUI conviction would be used to reclassify charges to a felony for a third DUI conviction.

In this case  the defendant had been charged with two counts of aggravated DUI, two counts of aggravated driving with a BAC of .08 or more and aggravated assault on a peace officer.

The aggravated (felony) driving charges were based on the fact that the defendant had two or more prior DUI convictions within 84 months under A.R.S. § 28-1383.

The lower court dismissed the Felony DUI and BAC charges.  The State Prosecution appealed the dismissal of the Aggravated DUI charges. The Appeals court agreed with the State Prosecution, and reversed the dismissal of the Felony DUI charges.  Continue reading

“DUI arrests for “probable cause” doesn’t mandate that the police officer show a driver was actually under the influence, only that it is probable that he was”.

1066864_police_cruiser.jpg A police officer need only have a reasonable suspicion that you have violated a traffic law (like the speed limit) or engaged in criminal activity to stop you. “Reasonable suspicion” means that there is a “particularized and objective basis” for believing somebody had violated the law. Once you are stopped, there must be probable cause to arrest you.

In a recent case, the Arizona Court of Appeals considered whether there was probable cause where the defendant was convicted of four counts of aggravated driving under the influence (aggravated DUI). The defendant had been stopped in his vehicle after a police officer visually estimated he was going fifteen miles over the speed limit. According to the police offer, he’d been trained to accurately estimate vehicle speed within five miles per hour.

Once the officer stopped the defendant, he saw the defendant had watery bloodshot eyes, spoke with slurred speech, and smelled like alcohol. The defendant couldn’t find his driver’s license and gave the officer his social security number. It turned out that he provided his wife’s social security number. When the officer learned this, he asked the defendant for his wife’s social security number. This time, the defendant gave him his own number. The officer administered a test for alcohol impairment. When the defendant refused a breathalyzer test, he was arrested.

Continue reading

How to avoid additional charges, and make sure your DUI stop does not turn deadly
police-car-126271-m.jpg

Recently a Mesa AZ police officer approached a vehicle and asked the driver if he had any weapons. The driver responded, affirmatively that he did in fact, have weapons in the vehicle. At that point he reached to the other side of the car and pulled a gun out of a holster from inside the vehicle. The officer apparently felt threatened, and reacted by drawing out his own sidearm. The police officer gave verbal commands for the driver to drop his weapon. The driver immediately dropped his weapon. The driver agreed to take a field sobriety test, which evidently did not go well for driver, since he was then taken to a command center to be booked for a DUI.

What went wrong that made this DUI stop potentially deadly?

Let’s take a closer look at reported events; application of the law; and tips on how to avoid criminal charges that are unrelated to driving impairment. First, there is no legal duty to voluntarily tell an officer you are carrying a gun if you are pulled over while driving in Arizona. However, you should respond affirmatively to an officer who asks. You should never pull a firearm out or at the officer or cause those to feel threatened in anyway. The driver was fortunate that the officer responded apparently with levelheadedness.

Although most attorneys discourage suspects from volunteering any information to the officer in a stop, there are others who feel there are safety benefits for the driver to volunteer to an officer that they are carrying a weapon so long as they are prohibited possessor and it is a prohibited weapon. This will avoid the police officer being taken by surprise, it in the event a search is conducted of your vehicle. Some feel too, that volunteering this information will alert a law enforcement officer that you are not doing anything wrong.

With every widely observed holiday, you’re likely you will see heightened police presence, enforcement and DUI Sobriety Checkpoints. DUI Roadblocks are set up with the intent to seek drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment, and make DUI arrests. The goal is to prevent motorists from driving impaired under the influenced of alcohol or drugs. DUI checkpoints can be considered “double edged sword” of sorts. Everyone wants impaired drivers off of the road. But if you’ve ever found yourself in a line-up waiting your turn through the checkpoint, you know it’s no fun. Whether you are driving impaired or not, it’s completely normal to feel a little nervous or anxious.

Most people sort of look around to make sure there is nothing in their vehicle that would give rise to the suspicion that they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Arizona, you should know that when the officer stops you at a DUI checkpoint, arrests can be made for violations of other crimes too, not just impaired driving.
In absence of a formal DUI safety checkpoint, a police officer needs a “reasonable suspicion” that a violation of the law or crime has occurred or is in progress to stop a driver and conduct a DUI investigation. However, DUI checkpoints bypass this usual step. Not all states have laws authorizing use of DUI checkpoints, but in Arizona their use is becoming more prevalent.

Always, (one more time) “always”, keep both hands on the wheel while you are talking to the officer. The exception to this, is if he instructs you to show him your license which requires you to take your hands on the wheel; or otherwise. Talk to the officer as calmly as possible, and when you must take your hands off the wheel to reach for your driver’s license and registration, do so calmly as well.

Like the situation in Mesa described above, an officer who sees you reach into an area of the car he can’t see may think that you are about to shoot. You do not have to reach for anything to extend a verbal affirmative or negative response.
If an officer who pulls you over for suspected DUI asks for your driver’s license, you need to show your driver’s license to him. Otherwise you may give the officer probable cause to conduct a further search and seizure. If the officer asks to search your car, you should say that you do not consent to a search. However, if the officer searches anyway, you must cooperate and you cannot put up any sort of resistance.

Field Sobriety Tests are not mandatory in Arizona. They are simply tools for Police to conduct roadside DUI screening and due to their unreliability may result in false conclusions. You can politely and lawfully refuse to participate in a field sobriety test. You should let the officer know that your reason for refusal is that you understand it is not mandatory by law, and it is your understanding that field sobriety tests are often unreliable and could give false impressions that a person is impaired when in fact they are not. You should be aware that refusing to submit to a field sobriety test may be cause for arrest or further detainment. You can and should refuse to answer questions based on your rights under the Constitution and request to speak with an attorney.

Arizona is an implied consent state. What does this mean to drivers? It means that there are civil penalties through the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) for refusal. If a driver refuses to take a breath or blood test to determine your BAC, your license may be revoked or suspended, whether they are were driving impaired or not; or convicted of the charges or not. All a refusal of a DUI breath or blood test costs you is a suspension of your driver’s license for one year. But the choice of course is ultimately yours.

Continue reading

Appeals Court overturns conviction holding that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant knew or should have known of the suspension.

mountain-road-1424189-m-1.jpgThere are several ways to get an aggravated DUI conviction in Arizona. Among the ways is driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs, medication, or illegal substances while having a suspended, cancelled, revoked, refused or restricted license. This is a class 4 felony.

However, you can also be charged with driving on a suspended license, which is a class 1 misdemeanor. Although the latter may not seem particularly important because it is a misdemeanor, it does give you a criminal record and can impact you in the future.

In a recent case, the defendant was charged with aggravated DUI while driving on a suspended license. The defendant did not appear for his trial and was tried without being present.

Continue reading

Arizona V. Cooperman: DUI Partition Ratio relevant, competent evidence to show lack of DUI Impairment.
breathalyzer-465392-m.jpg Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) refers to the concentration of alcohol in the blood that can currently be measured either by a DUI blood test or a breath test. Interestingly, however, the results of a breathalyzer test for DUI may not always be the same as the results from a blood test. This may be the case even if the blood and breath are tested at the same time.

Partition Ratio in DUI Breathalyzer Tests

Breathalyzer tests produce a numerical score, only by mathematically converting the breath sample to a Blood Alcohol Concentration level. This conversion process is known as the “partition ratio” when the conversion factor is used. The conversion is considered problematic by some because it is not necessarily reflective of the actual partition ratio for an individual; actual partition ratios for individuals can vary. Factors that may cause the ratios to vary include but are not limited to body temperature, medical conditions and gender. This means a breathalyzer test for an individual may not accurately translate to a blood alcohol concentration level indicative of impairment.

Case Background: State of Arizona v. Cooperman
In a recent case, the Arizona Supreme Court addressed whether partition ratio evidence could be admitted in a DUI case where (1) the state chose to bring in breath test results to prove a defendant had a .08 percent or more BAC within two hours of driving, and (2) evidence related to how much partition ratios varied in the population was relevant to the defendant’s level of impairment. The defendant here wanted to show how the partition ratio varies in the general population in order to introduce doubt as to whether the results of the breath test showed impairment.
In this case, a motorist charged with one count of driving while “impaired to the slightest degree” in violation of A.R.S. 28-1381 (A) 1; and the other was for having an alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more within two hours of driving in violation of A.R.S. 28-1381 (A) 2.

The Prosecution generally attempts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the latter charge (.08 percent BAC) by presenting a jury with evidence of a defendant’s blood alcohol content and establishing a DUI test sample was taken within two hours of the defendant driving. When a person’s BAC is .08 percent or higher, the presumption is that a person is under the influence, in violation of Arizona’s legal limit. However, to have a level below the .08 percent BAC does not however, create a presumption. If the officer had probable cause to believe that a motorist’s was still impaired, even though their BAC was below .08 percent, they may bring charges in violation of “impaired to the slightest degree”. The impairment, however, cannot be presumed, and must be decided in connection with other probable cause evidence.

The prosecution in this case attempted to prevent the defendant from submitting evidence that showed the partition ratio used to convert the breath reading to a blood reading was variable, meaning inconsistent, or liable to change. The prosecution argued that it planned only to introduce the breath test results for proof that the defendant’s BAC exceeded .08 percent; but not to prove the first charge of “impairment to the slightest degree”. Since the prosecution was not going to introduce the breath test for the impairment to the slightest degree charge, they argued the defendant could not present the partition ratios related to that breath test to cast doubt on whether or not the defendant was impaired at all.

Experts for both parties testified regarding the partition ratio. The defendant again tried to introduce exculpatory evidence of the partition ratio to that would cast doubt on whether or not he was impaired to the slightest degree. The State argued the defendant’s evidence was irrelevant and had the potential create unfair prejudice. The court ruled that partition ratio evidence was in fact relevant whenever breath test results are brought forward by the State. The court of appeals affirmed this ruling. The State then appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.


Arizona Supreme Court Analysis

The Arizona Supreme Court held that evidence is relevant where it can make a material fact in a case more or less probable. If evidence is relevant, it is permitted at trial, unless there is specific rule or provision in the law that prohibits it. In this case, the State was required to prove that the defendant was impaired because he drank alcohol. Therefore evidence of his impairment was relevant.

The AZ Supreme Court recognized the strong correlation between Blood Alcohol Content levels and intoxication. The prosecutors had argued that they had the unilateral ability to invoke the presumption that the defendant was under the influence and the partition evidence was irrelevant because they chose not to invoke the presumption of impairment to the slightest degree.

The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed with this approach by the prosecution. They held that there is nothing that precludes a DUI defendant from presenting partition ratio evidence to show he was not impaired in an impairment case. In fact, they cited specific Arizona Law, A.R.S. 28-1381(H) which specifically provides that any “competent evidence” on the issue of the question of the defendant’s impairment in DUI charges brought against them.

Conclusions

In conclusion the Arizona Supreme Court cited Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 524 (1979). Which holds the need to satisfy constitutional requirement presumptions in criminal cases must be rebuttable, enabling either side to provide evidence or argument that challenges or opposes the presumption. Thereby The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed decisions made by all previous courts, Municipal, Superior, and Appeals Court of Arizona, which was to allow the exculpatory evidence regarding partition ratio variability to be admitted to show the defendant’s lack of impairment.

Continue reading

DUI with passengers under age 15 in vehicle raises a DUI to Felony Charges, where penalties are steep.

photo_7587_20081004.jpgDrunk driving can subject you to harsh penalties in Arizona. However, driving drunk with children in the car can lead to even harsher penalties.

Recently, a middle-aged man was stopped in Arizona driving 89 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone. His ten-year-old and twelve-year-old daughters were in the car with him and the sheriff noticed his breath smelled like alcohol. His Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was .253 percent over 3 times the legal limit for alcohol in Arizona. The man admitted to deputies that he drank a six-pack of beer before driving. He was then charged with aggravated felony DUI, Super Extreme DUI and excessive speed.

An Aggravated DUI charge means that Misdemeanor DUI charges were raised to a felony in violation of Arizona’s A.R.S. 28-1383 Aggravated DUI Laws. An impaired driving charge without aggravated circumstances is generally charged as a Misdemeanor. The aggravated factor of having passengers under the age of 15 in the vehicle raise the charges to a felony violation.

Aggravated DUI charges alone are categorized as Class 6 felonies and expose a person to up to 20 days of incarceration; $4,000.00 fines; Driver’s License Revocation for 3 years; 2 years Ignition Interlock Device (IID) after driving privileges are reinstated; substance abuse education and counseling; and possible forfeiture of vehicle. These penalties will be more severe if coupled with other DUI or criminal charges, or if they are repeat offenses.

An Extreme DUI is charged when someone has a BAC above 0.150 percent but below 0.199 percent. First-time violations of Extreme DUI convictions expose a person to driver’s license suspension for 18 months; fines fees and assessments of $1500.00; 30 days in jail; installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for 1 year; and substance abuse screening and treatment.

The Super Extreme DUI charge was because his BAC level exceeded 0.20 percent under Arizona Super Extreme DUI Laws A.R.S. 28-1382. A first time DUI conviction with a BAC 0.20 percent or higher, calls for maximum jail terms of 45 days: fines, fees, and assessments of $1750.00; IID for 18 months; driver’s license suspension; and substance abuse screening, counseling or treatment.

In Arizona, the higher the BAC, the more severe the sentencing related to most all the penalties. Repeat violations can also result in aggravated DUI charges, and exposes a person to prison sentencing.

The Aggravated DUI in this case may present even harsher penalties if the man is convicted than the extreme DUI charge. When children under the age of 15 are in the car of a drunk driver, a misdemeanor DUI or DWI is automatically charged as a more serious Class 6 felony, even if it is a first drunk driving offense and the driver has no criminal history. This is because of the significant risk to a child’s life from being in the car with a drunk driver.
Someone convicted of felony aggravated driving while under the influence, may be sentenced to prison for 2 ½ years. Not only that but he or she must also attend and complete an alcohol education/treatment program, pay a fine of $750 and additional fees of $1750. His or her driver’s license will be revoked for 3 years. He or she will also be required to install an ignition interlock device on any car he operates for more than a year. Installation of the device typically costs money, too.

DUI and child endangerment convictions will usually have an adverse impact on civil and parental rights as well as criminal penalties. Convictions may result in a court order reducing of parenting you have with a child, for example if you have joint custody. It can also impact your civil rights such as causing you to be classified as a “prohibited user” due to the felony charge; and other consequential losses.

DUI charges involve multi-facet circumstances, evidence, laws, penalties and consequences. And the punishments can impact your life, and that of your family, adversely for many years into the future. There is a lot at stake in the way of your future and freedoms that you currently enjoy.

Continue reading

Why Missouri v. McNeely won’t have much impact in Maricopa County
1066864_police_cruiser.jpgA recent U.S. Supreme Court decision may not change Arizona DUI law, but it may bring the rest of the nation more in line with Arizona’s policies.

Phoenix AZ court’s Search Warrant Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for police to obtain a warrant via “eSearch”. According to Phoenix Police, an officer can now obtain a search warrant within minutes. So the fact that the body’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels naturally decrease over time should not compel police, to bypass a search warrant. This is because the BAC levels take hours to decline, and will not be reduced drastically within 10 minutes.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that police must obtain a warrant before forcing someone suspected of drunk driving to take a blood test. The US Supreme Court’s decision was that the mere fact that the body reduces BAC levels over time, is in and of itself not an “exigent” circumstance, and that each case should be decided based on it’s own set of facts.

Generally, a warrantless search of a person (including invasive searches of the body like a blood test) is considered reasonable if it falls into a recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In Arizona, the police are required to obtain a warrant in order to proceed with a blood test.

One such exception exists when the “exigencies of the situation” present such a compelling law enforcement need that it is objectively reasonable for an officer to bypass getting a warrant. The Supreme Court found no such exception here.

The case arose when a state trooper saw the defendant driving erratically. When the state trooper pulled him over, the defendant refused to take a Breathalyzer test, so the officer drove him to a nearby hospital and ordered him to take a blood test to measure his alcohol levels.

The officer did not seek a warrant to test the defendant’s blood and it turned out he had very high blood alcohol levels. When the defendant was put on trial, he moved to suppress the results of the blood test on the grounds that it had violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The State of Missouri argued that the officer’s failure to obtain a warrant was due to exigent circumstances that demanded he depart from the usual rule requiring a warrant. According to the State, because alcohol in the bloodstream slowly and predictably reduces with time, the evidence of the defendant’s DUI would be lost or destroyed during the time it would have taken to get a warrant. Missouri’s guidelines apparently allowed police officers broad discretion about whether to order a blood test under such circumstances.

The Supreme Court disagreed with the State’s argument, stating that under most conditions, there is enough time to get a warrant to test blood by using email or cellphones to contact the magistrate. Justice Sotomayor wrote that whether an emergency made it necessary to forgo the warrant would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis with justification being offered in court later.

Around the same time that the Supreme Court heard this case, Phoenix police sped up the search warrant process by installing a program in all police patrol car computers called eSearch Warrant Application. This allows an officer to send a warrant from the car directly to a judge, who can approve or reject the document on a laptop from the bench. The application was first installed in seven police DUI vans last fall.

The expediency of the warrant process using this software application makes it more critical than ever that if you are pulled over for drunk driving, you call an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer to handle your case. Contact the experienced Phoenix DUI attorneys of The Law Offices of James Novak at (480) 413-1499 to build a solid defense.

Additional Resources
Arizona DUI Laws
Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety
National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration

More Blogs
Prescription Drug DUI Charges, Phoenix DUI Lawyer Blog, January 28, 2013
Marijuana DUI: The Impact of Montgomery v. Harris in Arizona, Phoenix DUI Lawyer Blog, March 13, 2013

DUI one of four main causes of fatal and serious auto accidents on Arizona roadways.

298987_bbq_1.jpgEnforcement of Arizona’s tough DUI laws tend to ramp up in May, especially over Memorial Day weekend and around graduation festivities. Last year, police arrested 3,129 people for DUIs between May 1 and May 31st, 556 of those arrests were made over Memorial Day weekend.

Police agencies statewide have joined together over the past month to patrol for people who are drinking and driving. These efforts are funded by grants from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which also funds training for field sobriety tests, blood draws, drug recognition and equipment.

Tempe Police is at least one law enforcement agency that announced heightening enforcement from May 24th through May 27th. They have committed increased patrols and mobile units throughout the city and will be saturated in downtown Tempe AZ. Minor Consumption violations and prevention are a main focus.

Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) reported that last year at this time 5 fatalities resulted from 4 separate collisions, and 85 people were injured. Arizona DPS indicated that impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs was one of 4 main causes of fatalities and serious injuries. Other causes included speeding, seat belt violations, and fatigue or drowsy driving. And while it was not mentioned in the AZ DPS press release, some recent studies and reports show that “texting while driving” is also one of the main causes of motor vehicle fatalities and serious injuries.

It announced late last week that it will be “especially vigilant” on the state’s highways for this weekend to reduce the number of fatalities, injuries, traffic, and impaired driving violations. The AZ DPS is reminding everyone to be patient on the roadway while driving, get enough rest before trips, and obey traffic and seat belt laws, and refrain from drinking and driving; and “texting and driving”.

Tips from the police for the weekend include using public transportation or a completely sober designated driver. All drivers should be aware that in Arizona, adults can be arrested for drunk driving even if their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is below .08, if they are impaired to the slightest degree by the amount they drank.

Over Memorial Day weekend, particularly at family outings, some parents may let their older teenagers drink. While some states allow those under 21 to have a BAC of .01 or .02, Arizona has a zero tolerance policy for drunk drivers under the age of 21. Those under 21 may not even have even a BAC of .01%. A relatively recent case looked at the issue of blood tests for BAC for juvenile drivers, and the facts of the case are worth considering if you are a teenager or a parent.

In that case, a monitor at a seventeen-year-old defendant’s school smelled marijuana on his clothing in 2012. The monitor searched the vehicle the defendant and his friends had driven to school and found drug paraphernalia. School officials reported this to the police and the sheriff arrived and advised the defendant of his Miranda rights. Nonetheless the defendant admitted that he and his friends had smoked marijuana away from campus and driven back.

The defendant was arrested and charged with drunk driving. The sheriff read him admonitions related to the implied consent law for blood tests and the defendant agreed to submit to testing. His parents were called and came to the school. Meanwhile, the defendant’s blood was tested without his parent’s consent. His parents were told he was caught smoking marijuana and arrested, but weren’t asked for permission to test the blood that had been drawn.

Before a delinquency hearing, the defendant moved to suppress the blood test results. He argued that, as a minor, he lacked the legal ability to consent to testing. The juvenile court granted his motion, reasoning that the Arizona Parents’ Bill of Rights includes the right to consent before a minor’s blood is tested, notwithstanding Arizona’s implied consent law. It also found that the defendant’s consent hadn’t been voluntary.

The State appealed the juvenile court’s decision. The State argued that the Parents’ Bill of Rights was inapplicable because the parental right to consent did not prevent law enforcement officers from acting in their official capacities within the scope of their authority.

The appellate court reasoned that anybody who operates a motor vehicle in Arizona, including minors, gives consent to alcohol testing of blood, breath and urine in the context of a DUI allegation. Although someone cannot be blood tested in a DUI stop without a warrant, drivers are already assumed to have given consent. They can withdraw the consent that has been given, but they face penalties for doing so.

Continue reading

1409595_gavel_5-1.jpgThe Court of Appeals of Arizona recently decided an appeal regarding aggravated DUI in the case State of Arizona v. John Patrick McDonagh. This is an interesting case that works in favor of DUI defendants. It arose when the State charged the defendant with four counts of aggravated DUI. These were all variations on the same facts, including: (1) drunk driving on a suspended license, (2) drunk driving with a BAC over .08 on a suspended license, (3) third instance of drunk driving within 84 months, and (4) driving with a BAC over .08 on a third offense.

The defendant was convicted of all four of these. During a sentencing hearing, the judge imposed a minimum mandatory 4-month term in prison followed by two years of probation. The court ordered the prison terms and the probation to run concurrently. It also ordered significant “Assessments” totaling $4,630 per count. From the way the court wrote the order, it was not clear whether these Assessments were imposed concurrently or if this was the sum the defendant had to pay per count.

The defendant appealed solely with respect to the issue of the Assessments. He argued that there shouldn’t have been four separate Assessments assessed for four felony convictions all arising from the same driving incident. He didn’t raise a constitutional issue, but rather a prohibition found in the state statutes. Specifically the code states, “[a]n act or omission which is made punishable in different ways by different sections of the laws may be punished under both, but in no event may sentences be other than concurrent.”

The appellate court asked the parties to report how his payments were applied. The parties’ reports revealed that the court’s clerk applied the payment such that each dollar was credited to only one, not four counts.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading