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Arizona Court of Appeals: Reversing Dismissal of Marijuana DUI

A recent ruling could mean that a motorist who last smoked Marijuana in a legal state a month prior to traveling to Arizona, may be arrested and prosecuted for Marijuana DUI.

An Arizona Court of Appeals marijuana DUI dismissal was overturned recently in favor of the prosecution, and returned the case to the Superior Court for continued prosecution proceedings.

The issue in question was whether or not a motorist could be prosecuted for driving under the influence of Marijuana, even if the only evidence was blood test results that revealed a chemical compound that does not cause impairment; but can remain in the blood stream for a month.

The Court of Appeals focused on two chemical compounds in Marijuana that can be revealed in chemical testing for Marijuana. The first compound contains an active ingredient known as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has been successfully argued to cause impairment.

The second compound, known as Carboxy-THC, is argued by experts to exist in Marijuana users as an inactive ingredient. Carboxy-THC may remain in a person’s bloodstream for weeks after they’ve been under the influence of Marijuana; however, what studies show does not prove to result in driving impairment.

Only the inactive ingredient Carboxy-THC was found in the defendant’s blood stream, not the active ingredient. The Appeals Court ruled that both compounds, active and inactive, may apply to Arizona law. This means a driver doesn’t have to actually be impaired to get prosecuted for DUI. As long as there is evidence of marijuana in their system, they can get a DUI, the court said.

The Court of Appeals supported their reversal of the dismissal for continued prosecution by interpreting the DUI law § 28-1381(A) (3) broadly, because they wished to acknowledge the intent of the law, which was to protect the public. As a result, it was held that held that driving with Marijuana or “its metabolite” includes the metabolite Carboxy-THC, which is a lingering but non-impairing ingredient. Even though the language does not specifically state either compound, the Appeals Court held that the Superior Court erred because it did not consider the non-impairing compound Carboxy-THC to fall within the phrase “its metabolite”. And since it is “singular” rather than plural, it was interpreted as meaning any metabolite by the Appeals Court.

If effect, this means that a motorist who last smoked Marijuana in a legal state a month prior to traveling to Arizona, may be arrested and prosecuted for Marijuana DUI.

Although notice was given by the court the decision does not create legal precedent, and may not be cited except as authorized by applicable rules, it results in a persuasive argument by the prosecution. There are currently other cases pending in Arizona with similar circumstances. If the case is heard by the Arizona Supreme Court, experts expect it to be overturned consistent with the lower court’s decision.

Arizona Drug DUI Law

Among other DUI offenses A.R.S. 28-1381 A. (3) also prohibits a person from driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle in Arizona, while there is any drug defined in section A.R.S. 13-3401 “or its metabolite in the person’s body.”

Arizona drug law A.R.S.13-3401 does not define or directly interpret the word “metabolite” of Marijuana; nor does it specify whether or not a metabolite or compound may be active, or inactive, or capable of causing driving impairment.

Drug DUI Attorney Scottsdale AZ

If you were arrested for any DUI in Arizona, you should always consult a qualified criminal defense attorney before deciding to plead guilty. The penalties for drug DUI are similar or the same as alcohol related DUI, and are severe. They include jail terms, suspension of driver’s license, fines, fees, probation, substance abuse counseling and other penalties. Being arrested does not mean you will be found guilty. If retained, your Scottsdale defense attorney will defend your charges and protect your rights. There may be defenses you are not aware of that may be used to get charges dismissed or other favorable outcome in your case.

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