What the Law Says About Using Marijuana & Driving
While it may be legal in other states to use marijuana recreationally, or medically right here in our state, Arizona drivers have to deal with what is effectively a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of marijuana. Arizona law states that the presence of metabolites – the stuff that stays in the bloodstream for weeks after using marijuana – will be enough to get you charged with DUI, and possibly even convicted, even though you weren't actually impaired.
In other words, the "high" has worn off long ago, and yet you could still face criminal punishment.
Of course, if you are actually high at the time you’re pulled over, you can be arrested for DUI of marijuana. But being high on marijuana and having metabolites in your system are two different things entirely. With metabolites, you're not necessarily "high" – it just shows you've used marijuana in the last few weeks or so. And yet, the determination the officer makes during the traffic stop could be enough to start the chain of events leading from arrest to conviction.
If you have a medical marijuana card, for instance, or bloodshot eyes, the officer might use those as strikes against you. And even though you aren't driving impaired, it's not too hard to see circumstances where an officer steps over the line and arrests someone who shouldn't be arrested. If this is a situation you’ve found yourself in, it would be wise to contact a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about your rights.
What If I Have a Medical Marijuana Card in Arizona?
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) was passed in 2010, allowing qualifying patients to possess and use a certain amount of cannabis. While this may be an affirmative defense to marijuana DUI charges – if you can prove that the level of metabolites in your system was not enough to cause impairment – the law clearly states that medical marijuana patients are not immune from Arizona’s DUI laws. Thus, you may still find yourself in a sticky situation.
Arizona is one of three states that has both a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana and a law that legalizes the use of medical marijuana. So, even if you have the smallest amount of cannabis in your system when you are pulled over by law enforcement, there is a good chance you will face criminal charges. The best thing you can do at this point is to align yourself with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The potential penalties for a marijuana-related DUI in Arizona include:
- Up to six months in county jail
- One-year suspension of your license
- More than $2,000 in various fines
- Probation for up to five years
How to Protect Your Rights During a Marijuana DUI Stop
If you are suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana, it is important to know your rights.
- Don’t admit to using marijuana – Even if you are stopped on suspicion of DUI, you should avoid saying anything incriminating to the police. It is your right to remain silent, and you should exercise this right immediately.
- Don't take the field sobriety tests – You are not legally obligated to take field sobriety tests. So, if the officer asks, politely decline. However, you will be required to take a blood or urine test if you are arrested for DUI.
- Contact an attorney immediately – If you have been arrested for DUI, the first thing you should do is contact a lawyer. Don’t assume that you can talk your way out of the situation; you may just make things worse.
The Phoenix criminal defense attorneys at Suzuki Law Offices are available 24/7, so please do not hesitate to contact our firm if you or someone you love has been arrested. Initial consultations are free and confidential.