Marijuana DUI Laws
Drivers under the influence of Marijuana risk DUI arrest. Find out about your rights during a DUI stop, laws, penalties, and criminal defense, in Phoenix AZ.
Police warn that DUI laws have not changed in Arizona. It is still illegal in most states to drive impaired under the influence of Marijuana. Arizona is no exception. Police warn motorists about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs, Marijuana, or any controlled substances. Drivers need to be concerned that they risk being arrested for Marijuana DUI charges, whether they are using it for medicinal or recreational purposes. Drug DUI charges are as serious as alcohol drunk driving charges. The laws are strict and the penalties are harsh.Arizona DUI Drug Laws
Under Arizona Law A.R.S. § 28-1381 a person may be guilty of DUI with drugs if they are found to be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle, “impaired to the slightest degree” due to drugs, controlled substances or alcohol.
Under A.R.S. § 13 – 3401 the definition of “Drugs” includes Marijuana, cannabis, weed, pot, including synthetic or imitation Marijuana substances.
If the actual Marijuana is found, or drug paraphernalia, in plain sight, additional charges may be cited, for drug and paraphernalia possession.Marijuana DUI Testing
The police investigation actually begins before they pull you over. They will begin observing and taking note of all events that take place. In some cities, police cameras are being mounted on the police vehicle, the officers clothing, accessories, or person, to record the incident. Their investigation will include their observations; suspect’s statements; vital signs; suspect’s behaviors and ability to follow instructions; divided attention or Field Sobriety Tests, breath testing, and/or chemical testing.
Police will generally begin asking for your license, registration or other identification. They will observe your responses closely; as well as your ability to follow instructions. They will also look around in the vehicle for opened alcohol containers, Marijuana, controlled substances or drug paraphernalia in plain sight. They may also strike up a discussion to ask you if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You have the constitutional rights against self-incrimination, and therefore, are not obliged to answer these questions.
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)
If the police suspect you are driving impaired, they will then ask you to participate in Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). FSTs are not mandatory in Arizona. It is not recommended that you participate in them, because of their history of their low reliability ratio. They are often considered biased because police instruct, conduct, and grade the suspect unilaterally. Also, it is a known fact, that many unimpaired motorists are unable to pass the FSTs.
There are only three Field Sobriety Tests, called Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) approved for use in police field screening by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Any other field tests, the police request you take, are not admissible in court. The Standard FSTs are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) eye test; Walk-and-Turn test; and One-Leg Stand test.
Portable Breath Tests
Portable breath testing (PBT) is an initial screening test, done by use of a hand- held breathalyzer unit. The results of the test are inadmissible in court, because the unit is lacks accuracy and validity in evaluating the quantity or Blood Alcohol Content in a person’s system. However, it is highly accurate in determining if a person has any alcohol at all in their body. If the PBT results are negative, but the officer has probable cause to believe a suspect is impaired due to drugs, they will proceed with DUI chemical testing, which includes blood and urine tests.
If there is no evidence of alcohol in a person’s system, but the police have probable cause to believe a motorist was driving impaired, they will proceed with drug recognition screening. Chemical testing may include blood tests or urine tests. Samples will be collected by police who are trained and certified in phlebotomy, or other law enforcement personnel qualified and trained in the specialty areas of DUI-DWI chemical testing. In many cases, the police will transport the suspect to another location or crime lab for the collection of samples.Marijuana DUI Penalties
First offense Marijuana DUI is a Misdemeanor. Convictions will expose a person to the same or similar penalties as an alcohol DUI conviction. Sentencing includes but is not limited to the follow:
- Minimum of 1 to 10 days in jail;
- Driver’s License suspension of up to 90 days;
- Mandatory drug screening, education, counseling or treatment;
- Fines, fees, and assessments of $1250.00;
- Probation or Community Service
Second Marijuana DUI is also a Misdemeanor. But convictions result in more severe penalties:
- Minimum 3 months jail, with 30 days consecutive;
- Driver’s License Revocation for 1 year;
- $3,000.00 fines, fees, costs, assessments;
- Mandatory drug education, screening, counseling, or treatment;
- Probation or community service
Third offenses within 7 years will be charged as an Aggravated DUI (Felony) exposes a person to prison terms:
- 4 months in prison for third offense;
- 8 months in prison for subsequent offense after three;
- $4,000.00 fines, fees, costs, assessments;
- Driver’s license revocation for three years;
- Possible forfeiture of vehicle;
- Mandatory drug education, counseling or treatment;
- Parole, probation, and community service
If you are stopped for driving impairment investigation, and tests are conducted, you should always ask the police to provide you with a second sample for your defense. If you are charged or arrested based on breath or blood evidence, and you retain a criminal attorney to defend you, they can have the sample retested by an independent lab. If the results from the independent lab are inconclusive, or differ materially to the police conclusions, your attorney may file a motion to suppress the evidence due to weaknesses or inconsistencies. Suppression of the breath r chemical evidence may lead to a case dismissal. There may be other defenses that you are not aware of that may apply to your case. You should always retain a qualified criminal defense attorney to defend Marijuana or other Drug DUI charges. The Law Office of James Novak defends Marijuana and Drug DUI charges on a regular basis. James Novak, is a former Maricopa County Prosecutor, and has a vast amount of experience in handling criminal and DUI cases. He will make sure your rights are protected, provide a strong defense, and work to get you the best possible outcome in your case. If you face active charges, in Phoenix- metro or East Valley Cities in Maricopa County call the Law Office of James Novak, for your free and confidential consultation today (480) 413-1499.Additional Resources:
- Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety - Impaired Driving
- Arizona Department of Public Safety
- State Legislature of Arizona – DUI alcohol and drug laws
- Drug DUI Press Release – Arizona Trends 2011
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