Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies Marijuana DUI Rules
- Home /
- Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies Marijuana DUI Rules
As states around the country grapple with the effects of legalized marijuana use, Arizonas Supreme Court took the opportunity to clarify ambiguities in the states statutes. The Court held that drivers could only be arrested for DUIs if they were actually impaired by marijuana use, not solely because there were remnants of marijuana chemicals in their bloodstream.
If you have been injured in a car accident contact the dedicated car accident lawyers in Phoenix today for a free legal consultation.
How Marijuana Is Measured In Drivers
Previously, Arizona drivers could be arrested and charged with driving under the influence of marijuana if urine or blood tests revealed the presence of any marijuana metabolites. A metabolite is formed by the body during the process of degrading and eliminating a drug. Different types of metabolites can indicate a persons present intoxication, or could indicate that a person had used a certain drug in the past several days or weeks.
Marijuana use produces two main types of metabolites: one which causes impairment, and one which does not. The metabolite which does not cause impairment can be found in the bloodstream for several days or even several weeks after use.
Blood tests by the Arizona state police did not distinguish between any types of metabolites. If either type of metabolite was found, a driver could be arrested for DUI, even if he or she had not used marijuana for several days.
Arizona Supreme Court Ruling
The Arizona case in front of the Supreme Court came from a man who was stopped for speeding, and during the course of the conversation acknowledged smoking marijuana the previous night. The police had his blood drawn, which revealed marijuana metabolites, but not the kind which would cause impairment. He was arrested, charged, and convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana.
A state Court of Appeals upheld his conviction, and ruled that authorities could prosecute marijuana smokers for DUI even when there is no evidence of impairment. The man appealed this ruling to Arizonas Supreme Court, which held the opposite.
The Arizona Supreme Court rejected the States argument that the presence of any metabolites would be sufficient for an arrest. The Court explained that while Arizonas statutes make it illegal for a driver to be impaired by marijuana, the presence of a non-psychoactive compound in the blood does not constitute impairment under the law. Allowing arrests without a distinction as to which metabolites cause impairments and which do not would lead to absurd results.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided that a person cannot be prosecuted for driving under the influence unless that person is impaired at the time of the stop.
Impact on Other States
Twenty-one states have allowed medical marijuana use, while two states have allowed recreational use. The laws regarding what constitutes driving under the influence in these states vary wildly. Some states, like Arizona after this recent decision, require a driver to be impaired at the time of operation. Others have zero tolerance for the presence of any marijuana metabolites in a persons system, while still others have limits for the amount of active marijuana in a persons system (similar to .08 laws for alcohol use).
Unlike alcohol, no comparable marijuana test exists which police can perform at the time a person is stopped. While blood and urine tests do measure the levels of THC in a persons system, these tests cannot be performed at the roadside like a Breathalyzer. Under Arizonas new rules, police will need to rely on their observations and roadside sobriety tests to determine if a driver is impaired.
Arizonas Supreme Court decision may affect the decisions of other courts around the country. Last year, Michigans Supreme Court also determined that a person must be impaired in order to be charged with DUI. It remains to be seen what will happen as the countrys attitudes towards marijuana use change, but it is likely that more legislation and court decisions will come soon.
If you have been injured by an impaired driver, contact a Phoenix injury lawyer from the Phillips Law Group at 1-800-706-3000 . Our experienced personal injury and auto accident attorneys will fight to get you the compensation you deserve after an auto accident.
I want to thank attorneys Tim and Robert and the paralegal Bethany for all they had done on my case. They were all empathetic, knowledgeable and professional. All my questions were answered, emails returned in a timely matter, and promises fulfilled. I recommend Phillips Law Group if you need help with your injury case.
PLG is the best! Highly recommend. Love that they do so much to help the community.
I tried a few previous law firms and none would take my car accident case with confidence they could get my anything. Phillips law group took my case and although it took around 4 years to get this case settled as I was in treatment, they never let up with insurance adjusters and they got me as much money as possible. They worked hard for me and advocated for me. Shoutout to key individuals who worked my case nonstop of the years, Robert Ross & Jasmine, you are AMAZING!
I would have no hesitation at all recommending Phillips Law Group. In particular, Juan Roque has impressed me with his professionalism, his integrity and his heart for the community!
I was recently served court documents that I was being sued from an accident that happened years ago. For someone who has never been through something like this and not familiar with the court lingo or where to even begin, it was very frustrating and stressful. I reached out to a family member who knew Tracy Laskos and the great reputation of Phillips Law Group and within the hours of the initial call for help, I had a direct number to Lead Attorney Nassar. Nassar heard my case and almost instantly put me at ease by explaining the process and how easy it was to handle. Nassar spoke to me like he was a friend, not like I was a client. I am so grateful to Tracy, Nasar and of course my cousin Stephanie for helping out and giving me the direction that I needed to get through this situation. I plan on referring my friends, family and patients that are in need of a personal injury Attorney to Phillips Law Group. Thank you!!
Juan Roque has been integral with my legal needs. Communication has been easy. He conveys information I can easily understand without a lot of "Legal Fluff" jargon. I will certainly do business with Phillips Legal team again and refer them to my friends and family.
Jasmine helped me so so much I want to thank her ! And also Aaron , i was always scared after an accident , knowing I would have to deal with lawyers but not here . Luckily I’ve only been in 3 accidents but this time it was fast and easy . And i received all the treatments I needed to help me recover ! Thank you Jasmine and Aaron!
A friend of mine recommended Phillips Law and I’m so grateful, because they were so wonderful, so down to earth, so professional. I felt like they were family.
Two family members were in a bad wreck a couple of years ago, and as a result called Phillips Law to represent them. Montana Thompson was the attorney assigned to the case with the help of Nemo Farr as legal assistant. Mr. Thompson litigated a very generous settlement for both my stepdaughter and her son. Because my grandson is a minor, I decided to act as conservator for him to ensure the settlement was safe and secure. Montana helped with that process, but it was Nemo who went way above and beyond the call in finding a financial institution to use for the restricted account. There were some glitches in that process but Nemo helped navigate them with a calm expertise which belies his age. I would consider them both great representatives of the level of commitment to their clients and assets to their firm.
I didn’t know anything about the area, and Phillips Law Group just took care of everything. They helped made sure I knew where I was going, made sure I didn’t have to worry. They literally just took care of me.