Marijuana DUI Laws

Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyer Stays on the Cutting Edge of Arizona’s Changing Drug Laws

In recent years, the general attitude towards marijuana use has changed quite a bit. First, it was the legalization of medical marijuana in 2010. Ten years later, Arizonans passed Proposition 207, allowing the use and possession of a small amount of marijuana. While driving under the influence of marijuana is still a crime in Arizona, these legal developments significantly changed how marijuana DUI laws are enforced and prosecuted. If you were arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana in Phoenix, you need a lawyer who understands the current state of the law and knows how to challenge the government’s case against you.

Arizona Drug DUI Laws

When it comes to driving under the influence of drugs, there are two ways the government can charge you.

A.R.S. 28-1381(a)(1) – Sub-section (a)(1) makes it illegal to drive if you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs and impaired to the slightest degree.

A.R.S. 28-1381(a)(3) – Sub-section (a)(3) makes it illegal to drive while there is any drug (or metabolite) in your body.

Historically, this meant that prosecutors did not need to prove that you were impaired to charge you with a DUI under sub-section (a)(3). It was enough to show that you had marijuana or THC in your system. However, Proposition 207 added language to another statute, A.R.S. 36-2852(B), clarifying that someone cannot be found guilty for a marijuana DUI under sub-section (a)(3) unless they are “impaired to the slightest degree.”

The inclusion of this new language makes the two DUI sub-sections very similar. Under the new marijuana DUI laws, you are not guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana unless the prosecution proves 1.) you were under the influence of marijuana, and 2.) you were impaired to the slightest degree. This is the case whether or not you have an Arizona medical marijuana card.

Changes to Arizona’s Search and Seizure Laws

Proposition 207 also significantly changed the way that police officers can investigate crimes. Previously, if police officers smelled burnt marijuana, it was considered evidence of a crime. However, under the state’s new marijuana laws, the smell of burnt marijuana no longer constitutes reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. Thus, if officers pulled you over for a suspended license (but did not observe any dangerous driving), they should not use the smell of marijuana to justify removing you from the car to conduct a search.

The exception to this is if officers believe you are driving under the influence. So, if you are pulled over for committing a traffic offense that could reasonably be associated with impairment, the officer may still be able to legally rely on the smell of burnt marijuana to arrest you. For example, if an officer pulls you over for running a red light and drifting in and out of your lane, they may be able to arrest you. However, this is a very fact-specific analysis, and those arrested for a Phoenix DUI based on the odor of marijuana should consult with an attorney.

Marijuana DUI Punishments

While the new Arizona marijuana DUI laws make proving a case more difficult for the government, they do not affect the severity of the punishment once you are convicted. Arizona continues to have some of the harshest DUI penalties in the country. For example, the punishment for a first offense marijuana DUI in Phoenix carries up to ten days in jail followed by five years of probation. If you are convicted of a second offense, you face at least 30 days in jail, followed by up to five years of probation. In addition, you must install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle once you are eligible to drive.

Contact an Experienced Tempe Marijuana DUI Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, do not give up hope. The marijuana DUI laws in Arizona recently underwent significant changes. There are several defenses to a DUI charge that may result in the withdrawal of charges, the suppression of evidence, or an acquittal at trial. Attorney James E. Novak is a Phoenix drunk driving lawyer who dedicates his practice to advocating on behalf of clients charged with all types of DUI offenses. He commands an impressive understanding of the new Arizona marijuana laws and uses this knowledge to aggressively defend his clients’ rights at every stage of the process. To learn more, and to schedule a free, confidential consultation, call 480-413-1499 today.