Criminal Defense for Marijuana DUI Charges
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Phoenix Marijuana DUI Lawyer
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Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can land you in serious trouble. In the state of Arizona, the seemingly ever-changing drug laws can even lead to arrests based on whether or not law enforcement officers think you are driving impaired and can prove prior use of a drug.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a marijuana DUI offense, contact a Phoenix marijuana DUI lawyer at Belén Law Firm today. Belén Olmedo Guerra has the tenacity and determination to fight aggressively for your defense while protecting your rights and your freedom. Call our law office today at (602) 715-0908 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney.
Can I Get in Trouble for Driving While High on Marijuana?
Arizona’s drugged driving law is a zero-tolerance law, which means you can be arrested if you have any of the listed drugs in your system while driving. The list contains drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana, and certain prescription drugs.
As the law surrounding the use of recreational marijuana has recently changed with the passing of Proposition 207, the details around a marijuana DUI have changed as well. While you can’t be arrested for simply having marijuana in your system, you can be arrested if you are impaired to the “slightest degree” while in control of a vehicle. There is no tried-and-true method for determining marijuana impairment, which is why having an experienced marijuana DUI attorney is critical in these types of cases.
Can I Be Arrested for Driving While High on Marijuana If I Have a Prescription?
Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are both legal in the state of Arizona now, but driving while high can still result in a DUI conviction (even if you have a valid prescription). If medical marijuana causes any level of impairment, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI. Unfortunately, the level of impairment is often determined by the officer at the scene. Even the “slightest degree” of impairment can result in a marijuana DUI conviction.
What is a Marijuana DUI?
Even though Arizona marijuana laws recently changed to allow adults over 21 to use marijuana recreationally, it’s still strictly regulated. Driving under the influence of marijuana can result in slower response times and contribute to more accidents. If you are pulled over and the officer suspects you are impaired, you could face a marijuana DUI charge.
Arizona has two laws regarding marijuana DUIs. Under ARS 28-1381(A)(3), people with marijuana in their system can be charged with a DUI. This is a zero-tolerance law, so any amount of the listed drugs in your system can result in a DUI, even if you aren’t impaired. Marijuana is one of the listed drugs, but the recent passing of Prop 207 resulted in a few changes to this law.
ARS 36-2852(B) states that someone can only be arrested and charged with a marijuana DUI if they are also “impaired to the slightest degree.” The law enforcement officer at the scene is often the one that makes the decision about what exactly this means. Officers often look for bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, poor hand-eye coordination, and the odor of marijuana.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Arizona
A marijuana DUI conviction can come with extensive (and expensive) penalties. By the end, you could end up paying more than $10,000 in higher insurance premiums, fines, and court costs. Even a first-time offender can be punished with:
- Over $2,000 in court costs and fines
- Up to six months in jail
- Driver’s license suspension for 90 days
- Expensive insurance premiums
- 8 points against your license
- An ignition interlock device installed in your car (you must cover the cost of the installation and the lease–usually around $2 per day for a year)
Ignition interlock devices are usually used for alcohol-related offenses, but judges have the discretion to use one in your case.
Prior Convictions Can Lead to Harsher Penalties
If you have a prior DUI conviction on your record within the last seven years, you can be subject to even harsher penalties. Penalties for a second conviction include:
- Over $5,000 in court costs and fines
- Up to six months in jail, with a minimum of 90 days
- Driver’s license revoked for a year
- Ignition interlock device installed on every vehicle you have access to
- 8 points against your license
- Higher insurance premiums
- 30 hours of community service
Do I Need a Defense Attorney for Marijuana DUI Charges?
With the newly changing laws surrounding recreational marijuana usage, it’s critical to have an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney on your team to navigate your marijuana DUI charges. A marijuana DUI can result in a Class 1 misdemeanor and cause lifelong issues for you, so it is incredibly important to establish an attorney-client relationship with a marijuana DUI lawyer like Belén to ensure your future remains protected.
How Do Police Prove Marijuana Impairment?
Before the passing of Proposition 207, having actual physical control of the vehicle with marijuana present in your system was enough to warrant a DUI conviction. The issue with this is that marijuana can stay in your system for days or weeks if you are an active user. If the officer at the scene believes you are impaired by marijuana or another drug, they may call a drug recognition expert out to the scene. Drug recognition experts (DREs) are trained to recognize levels of impairment. Unfortunately, these “experts” have flaws of their own.
Issues With Drug Recognition Experts
No scientific studies support the validity of drug recognition programs. In many cases, the use of a DRE officer often acts only as confirmation bias for police officers. These officers will rarely admit mistakes, even if blood tests come back and show no evidence of active marijuana metabolites.
Defense for Marijuana-Related DUI Offenses
At Belén Law Firm, we explore every marijuana DUI defense strategy possible in your case.
Medical Marijuana Defense
If you have a valid medical marijuana card, it’s likely that you use marijuana on at least a semi-regular basis. Frequent marijuana users often have positive chemical tests for up to a month, but this doesn’t have an impact on impairment. Unfortunately, the burden of proof is often left up to the defendant in this case. Arizona passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in 2010, which means that having a medical marijuana card can be an affirmative defense for a marijuana DUI.
Level of Impairment
Another common defense is discrediting the “slightest degree” of impairment charge. Under Arizona law, people can only be convicted of a marijuana DUI if there are active marijuana metabolites in their system within two hours of driving a vehicle and if they had the slightest degree of impairment. The officer at the scene often determines the level of impairment, which can be different for every person. Law officers commonly look for:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Erratic driving
- Marijuana paraphernalia seen from outside the car
- Odor of marijuana
None of these things necessarily mean that someone is truly under the influence of marijuana. There is no breathalyzer for marijuana. Officers have to do a blood test (which they need a warrant for) and they must prove that there are active marijuana metabolites in your system.
Anytime a drug is ingested, inhaled, injected, or otherwise consumed, the drug metabolizes in your body. The psychoactive component of marijuana is THC. When THC metabolizes, it forms metabolites in the blood. The impairing THC metabolite is 11-Hydroxy-THC. After this metabolite is metabolized, it becomes 9-Carboxy-THC. While this is still an active marijuana metabolite, 9-Carboxy-THC is not impairing. In 2014, the Arizona Supreme Court held that those arrested and charged with a marijuana DUI cannot be convicted if only 9-Carboxy-THC was found in their blood.
Protect Your Rights During a Traffic Stop
If you are arrested during a traffic stop, there are some key things you can do to protect your future. This includes utilizing all your rights. For example, you don’t have to answer questions from law enforcement officers without an attorney present. You also don’t have to participate in a field sobriety test. If you are arrested during a traffic stop, contact a Phoenix DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.
You have the right to remain silent after being arrested, regardless of the alleged crime. Avoid speaking to the officers. Anything you say after your arrest can incriminate you and be used against you later on. Calmly inform the officers that you won’t be speaking without a lawyer present and contact a Phoenix drug crime defense attorney as soon as possible. Avoid saying anything about the possible presence of marijuana in your system.
Avoid Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are often skewed. Unlike alcohol, the level of marijuana in someone’s system cannot be tested at a traffic stop. Also unlike alcohol, there is no legal limit for cannabis or marijuana in someone’s system. The only way to test for marijuana is through a chemical test, but these results can be skewed as well. If someone consumed marijuana the day before they were pulled over, the test might come back positive for marijuana.
An officer may ask you to step out of your vehicle and perform a field sobriety test, such as walking along a straight line or other tests you may have seen on TV. You are not required to perform these tests. It’s not uncommon for perfectly sober people to fail these tests because of environmental factors or anxiety. You have every right to politely decline to do these tests.
Contact a Phoenix Marijuana DUI Lawyer at Belén Law Firm
An experienced DUI defense lawyer like Belén Olmedo Guerra can craft the best defense strategy for you and fight aggressively for your future. Our team is available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and begin working on your case.
Arizona Criminal Defense Lawyer for Marijuana DUI Charges
At Belén Law Firm, our Arizona attorneys understand the devastating effects of a criminal conviction. Let us fight for your freedom and your future. For more information about our legal services, call us now at (602) 715-0908. We look forward to providing you with aggressive and proactive legal counsel.