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Getting a DUI for Marijuana in Arizona

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by a DUI expert.

Clinically Reviewed By: Karen Williams, LPC

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

What happens if you get charged with a Marijuana DUI in Arizona? It’s a question that deserves detailed explanation.

Because marijuana can stay in your system for so long, it’s scary to think that you could be charged with a Marijuana DUI.

Here’s what you need to know about getting a Marijuana DUI in Arizona.

Searching for help with drug and/or alcohol addiction? Call us now at (888) 822-0306.

Contents

What happens after you get a marijuana DUI in Arizona?

Legalizing medical marijuana has changed the attitude of law enforcement authorities towards marijuana consumption. In 2017, about 27,653 DUI arrests1 were made in the state.

The number of yearly arrests of marijuana DUIs in Arizona has considerably decreased after passing the Smart and Safe Arizona Act in 2020. This year, there have been only 75 extreme DUI arrests2 in Arizona, compared to 103 in 2021.

Though driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal in Arizona, legal developments like the 2020 Arizona Proposition 207 have greatly changed how laws are enforced. Being charged with a marijuana DUI in Arizona does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. For a DUI to result in a conviction, the state prosecutor must prove you guilty of committing all elements of the offense. If you are pulled over for DUI, and your drug tests come back positive, you will either be charged with ARS 1381(A)(1) 3or ARS 1381(A)(3)4, depending on the percentage of marijuana in your system. Under ARS 1381(A)(1), driving under the influence of any substance is illegal if the substance makes the driver impaired to the slightest degree. The key phrase here is “to the slightest degree,” which means you can be prosecuted even for the smallest level of impairment, as long as the prosecutor can prove that the presence of marijuana in your system caused the impairment. This law applies to everyone regardless of whether or not they have a prescription for marijuana. Under ARS 1381(A)(3), driving with any substance or its metabolite present in your system is illegal. This law does not require the prosecutor to show impairment. You can be prosecuted under this statute if you have a drug’s metabolite in your system, even if you were driving perfectly fine. 2020 Arizona Proposition 2075 has added new language to this law which precludes the prosecution if the prosecutor cannot show impairment “to the slightest degree.”

What are the penalties for a marijuana DUI in Arizona?

People convicted of DUIs in Arizona can incur extremely harsh penalties. Though newer DUI laws in the state, like the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, have made it difficult for the prosecution to convict people, they do not lessen the severity of the punishment if a person is convicted. If you are convicted of a marijuana DUI in Arizona, you may need to serve jail time, engage in community service, or pay a fine of thousands of dollars. In extreme cases, your driver’s license may also be suspended, restricted, or annulled. The court may also order installing an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. After a DUI conviction in Arizona, you will also be required to obtain an SR-22 document or maintain high-risk auto insurance. Conviction under “Drug DUI” law or “Impaired to the Slight Degree” law is a class 1 misdemeanor. If you are charged with a marijuana DUI in Arizona for the first time, you can incur the following penalties:
  • You can get a minimum of 10 days and six months in jail. If you complete a drug assessment and other recommended classes, you may be eligible for six days of jail time and 24 days of home detention. During home detention, you can go to work and engage in other chores, but you must always wear an ankle monitor. Home detention is not allowed by all courts in Arizona. If the court does not allow home detention, you’ll have to spend 30 days in jail with permission to participate in a work release program after two days. If you get this type of release, you can leave the jail to work for 12 hours daily.
  • Fines and court costs can amount to up to $5,000.
  • A 90-day suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. If your license gets suspended, you won’t be able to travel for the first 30 days, with restricted driving for the last two months.
  • The court may order you to install an ignition interlock device in your call. Though this is not mandatory in a marijuana DUI, the judge can use their discretion to include it as a term in your punishment.
  • Eight MVD points are assessed against your permanent driving record when you are charged with a DUI in Arizona. Due to this, you may lose some of your driving privileges for a specified time if you have prior MVD points on your record. You’ll only be required to attend traffic survival school to regain driving privileges.
  • A conviction for DUI in Arizona that’s accompanied by other negative factors, such as a suspended license, can result in aggravated charges. You’ll incur harsher penalties if you are convicted under such circumstances.
  • A DUI conviction in Arizona can cost you a lot of money, ranging from about $10,000 upwards. You’ll be required to maintain SR-22 for the next three years, costing you around $3,000. The financial penalties are greater for those convicted of a DUI than once in the past seven years.

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Understanding Marijuana Metabolites in Drug Testing for DUI

The metabolites of marijuana stay in your system long after its euphoric and relaxing effects have worn off. When marijuana breaks down inside your body, it forms metabolites. As metabolites remain in the body longer than the parent compound, drug tests detect their presence. Detection time for marijuana depends on a range of factors,6 including the test’s type and sensitivity; the drug’s dosage, frequency of use, and last time of consumption; the person’s genetic makeup and state of their metabolism; and unknown factors. Urine tests are the most commonly used drug tests that can identify the presence of marijuana in your system weeks after consumption. Marijuana metabolites are detectable in urine for up to four weeks. As the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, THC, is not detectable in the urine, this testing cannot measure impairment. Urine testing can identify the presence of non-psychoactive marijuana metabolites like THC-COOH, which can remain in your system without producing any impairing effects. The unusually long elimination time of THC-COOH increases the sensitivity of urine tests to marijuana in the system. On the other hand, blood tests can more accurately detect the remains of marijuana consumed recently. Marijuana metabolites are detectable in the blood for around two days after consumption. This testing is most commonly administered for marijuana DUIs as it can detect recent use to prove impairment. Hair tests can detect marijuana metabolites for months after use, but the results are usually inaccurate. This is because marijuana and other drugs can enter the hair due to external exposure. Non-psychoactive metabolites of marijuana remain in the hair for several months after use. Shampoos do not easily wash them out. Law enforcement officers in Arizona do not use this type of testing in DUI investigations as they cannot detect immediate use to prove impairment. Breathalyzers also cannot detect marijuana metabolites and hence cannot prove impairment unless you are under the influence of other substances. The police frequently use saliva swabs to detect the use of marijuana within the last 12 hours. The presence of marijuana metabolites can be identified in the saliva for up to 24 hours.

Can I get my Marijuana DUI dropped?

A valid medical marijuana card provides an ‘affirmative defense7 against the Drug DUI charge under ARS 1381(A)(3), as the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in Dobson v. McClennen8. You can get your marijuana DUI dropped in Arizona if you are a medical marijuana cardholder and the drug test cannot show the level of marijuana required to prove impairment. In criminal law, the burden is on the state to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in this case, the burden of proof is on you to prove that there was no impairment in your driving. An experienced DUI lawyer can help you get your DUI charges dropped or dismissed. The prosecutor may be willing to drop the charges if there is insufficient evidence. Any piece of evidence that can undermine the prosecution’s case against you can get your charges dropped. Another way to get the case dismissed is to prove the violation of your fourth amendment rights. The 4th Amendment9 protects you from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. If the prosecution has some evidence that was illegally obtained, your attorney can ask them to drop the charges. Similarly, if you were pulled over without reason, your lawyer can argue that the police did not have probable cause for giving you a drug test. Procedural issues can also render the arrest invalid. Law enforcement officers must follow strict criminal procedures while arresting and performing other pretrial activities. If you were not Mirandized at the time of the arrest, you could assert that your rights have been violated. You can also negotiate a deal with the prosecutors to help solve other crimes. If your attorney can convince them, they might be willing to reduce your sentence or drop the charges altogether. Your attorney will apprise you of all the possible ways to get the charges dropped.

What can I do to resolve my Marijuana DUI?

There are various ways to deal with marijuana DUIs in Arizona. First, you need to reach out to an experienced DUI lawyer who can build an excellent defense for you. They’ll review the charges against you and walk you through your legal options. To beat the DUI, your lawyer will try to show that you did not consume marijuana before driving or that your driving wasn’t impaired by the marijuana consumed. They may also try to dismiss the case because of constitutional rights violations, failure to follow procedural codes, or insufficient evidence. Proving that you were not driving under the influence of marijuana can help you get out of a DUI in Arizona. If the prosecution’s case is built on testing methods that do not prove acute use, like hair tests, your attorney can argue you did not use marijuana before driving. Similarly, your lawyer can also dispute the results of other testing methods. For example, they can argue that you consumed marijuana a day before if the blood test comes positive. Your attorney can give multiple arguments to dispute the test results. They can argue that the drug test was improper or that the equipment was not appropriately maintained. Lab technicians have to follow certain procedures while performing the test. A failure to follow the required procedures can also be used as an argument to dispute test results. Certain medications in your system can also result in a false positive. If you used any such medication, your lawyer could argue that the results were positive. Beating a marijuana DUI in Arizona is not difficult if the prosecution cannot prove impairment. Your body does not process alcohol and marijuana in the same way. Though alcohol is removed from your body at a steady rate, the metabolites of marijuana can stay in your system long after its psychoactive effects have worn off. As it’s the psychoactivity of marijuana that results in impairment, your lawyer can argue that you were completely sober while driving the vehicle, even if you had consumed marijuana a few hours before. Additionally, drug tests used for marijuana detection do not show when and how much of the drug was consumed. These arguments can also help increase the odds in your favor. Before presenting any of these arguments, your lawyer might get the case dismissed without reasonable cause if your driving wasn’t impaired. If you were pulled over while driving safely, your DUI charges could be dropped. Getting the charges dropped before trial can save you a lot of money in court fees.

Sources

[1] Keeping Families Safe: DUI [2] 4th of July DUI arrests are down this year compared to 2021 [3] ARS 1381(A)(1) [4] ARS 1381(A)(3) [5] AZ Prop 207 [6] Differences in Cannabis Impairment and its Measurement Due to Route of Administration  [7] Arizona Law: Affirmative Defense [8] Dobson vs. McClennen [9] The 4th Amendment

Online DUI Classes and Assessments

Call to learn about how we can help you resolve your DUI case through online self-paced DUI classes.

Questions about drug and alcohol treatment? We can answer your questions. 

Author: Cornerstone Content Team

Author: Cornerstone Content Team

Cornerstone's content team is comprised of writers with experience and expertise in addiction, treatment, and recovery.

Clinical Reviewer: Karen Williams, LPC

Clinical Reviewer: Karen Williams, LPC

Karen is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 15 years experience. She not only specializes in addiction, but is in recovery as well. Karen is our clinical director.

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