Driving is a privilege, and as such, you need to handle it responsibly and thoughtfully. Taking to the road when you are in no condition to do so is a flagrant abuse of that privilege. Irresponsible drivers could end up incurring a marijuana DUI charge or something similar.
You may be wondering if DUI charges related to marijuana are a real thing. After all, when people hear about DUIs, they immediately think about violations related to alcohol. We’ll be addressing that and many other relevant topics in this article.
Please feel free to read on and learn more about how you could be in violation of the law by driving under the influence of marijuana. The information you pick up here could wind up saving you from legal troubles down the road.
The Legal Status of Marijuana in Arizona
Before we go deeper into DUIs and how they relate to marijuana, let’s take a few moments to go over another topic of importance. To be more specific, let’s talk about the legality of marijuana in the state of Arizona.
In case you missed it, Arizona residents made a huge decision regarding marijuana usage in the state during the last general election. Proposition 207, also known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, put forth the initiative to legalize the adult use of marijuana. The proposition also sought to legalize the possession and transfer of marijuana, provided that people follow certain rules.
Once Election Day came, the majority of Arizona residents decided to vote “yes” on Proposition 207, and thus the adult use of marijuana became legal.
With the passage of Proposition 207, Arizona residents over the age of twenty-one can now legally possess, use, and/or transfer up to one ounce of marijuana. Growing your own marijuana plants is legal now, but there are also restrictions placed on that.
The passage of Proposition 207 marks a clear turning point when it comes to how the state of Arizona treats and views marijuana. However, the passage of that proposition does not mean that Arizonans now have carte blanche to use marijuana any way they please. There are still activities related to marijuana that remain outlawed.
Marijuana-Related Activities That Remain Illegal in Arizona
Adults can now legally use marijuana in Arizona, but there are still existing rules limiting the usage. Let’s go over those restrictions so you can avoid violating them.
Smoking Marijuana in Public
If you do intend to use marijuana, you must do so only at home. Using marijuana in a public space is a violation of the law. Officials consider parks and other open areas public spaces.
The sale of marijuana is guarded carefully by the state of Arizona. Even though individuals are now allowed to cultivate their own marijuana plants at home, selling what they grow is another matter altogether.
As of now, only licensed entities are allowed to sell marijuana in Arizona. More specifically, only medical marijuana dispensaries and marijuana establishments can sell those products.
Using Marijuana in the Workplace
The subject of using marijuana in the workplace is tricky because rules can vary from one place to another. Some employers may enact rules that ban the usage of marijuana in the workplace, and that is their right.
Employees must abide by the rules set in their workplace regarding marijuana usage. Failing to do so could lead to them losing their job or potentially facing other legal troubles.
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
Arizona is committed to keeping their roads safe for everyone. The state has harsh laws related to driving under the influence to deter everyone from engaging in such a dangerous activity.
It should come as no surprise that driving under the influence of marijuana still remains illegal. According to Arizona law, operating any motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft right after using marijuana is not allowed.
What Constitutes a Marijuana DUI Violation in Arizona?
The threshold for committing a marijuana DUI violation in Arizona is not particularly high. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the authorities finding any trace of marijuana metabolites in your body can lead to a DUI violation.
Other states handle DUI violations a bit differently. Many of them will not charge you with violating any drug laws unless the level of marijuana metabolites in your bloodstream exceeds 0.08 percent. In Arizona, you can be cited for a marijuana violation even if the metabolite concentration in your blood is less than that threshold.
What that means is that Arizona residents should avoid using marijuana altogether if they plan on driving anytime soon. Most of the time, marijuana should only remain traceable in your body for about a couple of days. However, there are times when it could linger for a week or even longer than that.
What Are the Penalties for Committing a Marijuana DUI Violation?
Given how committed the state of Arizona is to discourage driving under the influence, you cannot be surprised that they have some harsh penalties. The penalties change depending on whether you are a first-time or repeat offender.
Penalties for the First DUI Violation
The penalties that come with your first marijuana DUI arrest include a jail sentence. At a minimum, you can expect to spend at least ten consecutive days in jail. That jail sentence could also be up to one hundred and eighty days.
You may also need to pay a fine of no less than $1250. Offenders must render community service and receive probation. The probationary period could last for up to five years.
Anyone found guilty of driving under the influence will also attend drug screening, treatment, and education programs. They will also install a certified ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Lastly, they will suspend your driver’s license after your DUI violation. The suspension period will only last for ninety days if you attend Traffic Survival School. Failing to attend Traffic Survival School will lead to suspension of your driving privileges for one year.
Penalties for the Second DUI Violation
The jail sentence for a second DUI violation carries a heavy minimum. You’re looking at ninety days in jail at the least for that second violation, but that can still go up to one hundred and eighty days.
The fine goes up significantly too. The minimum fine will be set at $3000.
Like before, you will attend drug screening, treatment, and education programs. Community service and probation also remain as penalties.
They will suspend your driver’s license again. This time, the suspension will be a year, and attending Traffic Survival School will not change that.
Penalties for an Aggravated DUI Violation
A person can be guilty of aggravated DUI if they commit a third DUI violation within eighty-four months. Individuals who drive under the influence with a suspended license or with a person under fifteen in the vehicle can also receive charges of aggravated DUI.
The penalties for aggravated DUI are serious. You will still attend drug education, screening, and treatment programs while rendering community service, but there are other harsher penalties.
They will revoke your driver’s license for one year after an aggravated DUI charge. The state will also hit you with an onerous fine. The fine in question here could balloon up to $150,000.
Offenders are no longer looking at jail time. Instead, you will go to prison and receive a sentence of at least four months there. Depending on how the court views your case, your prison sentence may extend up to two years.
An Additional Note about DUI Marijuana Convictions
Although not a direct penalty of your negligent decision, you should know that an offense of that nature will stick with you. The passage of Proposition 207 has made it possible for individuals to erase various marijuana violations from their records. Possessing, using, and growing marijuana are examples of previous violations they can delete.
Those who are guilty of driving under the influence will not have that same opportunity. The error they made will stay on their record permanently.
Considering the effects of having any blemish on your record, you should think twice about driving your vehicle under the influence of marijuana. That risk is not worth taking.
How Do You Fight against a Potential Marijuana DUI Charge?
After being cited for a potential marijuana-related DUI violation, you may be coming up with ways to defend yourself. At that point, your most effective defense is to prove that you are a qualified medical marijuana patient.
It’s important to note here that you can use the medical defense if prescribed by a doctor. A recommendation is not the same thing as a prescription, so you can still get in trouble if the former is the only thing you have.
But what if you are not a medical marijuana patient? What can work as your defense in that scenario?
You should call a lawyer at that point. A lawyer can help by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the drug test results. They can request to have the sample retested in a bid to prove your innocence.
If you truly were not driving under the influence of marijuana at the time, a second test should provide a result that conflicts with the earlier false positive. Your lawyer can then use that other test result to demonstrate that it was the test that made an error and not you.
A lawyer could also suggest that the sample used in your case was tainted. If that is proven, then the DUI charge against you will look flimsy.
In any case, you should get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible if you receive a DUI violation. Suspected DUI violators are usually allowed to contact a lawyer as soon as they’re in custody.
Can You Refuse to Take a Drug Test After Being Pulled Over?
Arizona operates under the Implied Consent Law, and that makes a big difference in DUI cases. You might have assumed that refusing a drug test is allowed, but that is not the case in Arizona.
After you get your Arizona driver’s license, you automatically consent to any alcohol or drug tests while you’re operating your vehicle. Technically, you can still refuse the test, but that will lead to you facing stiff penalties.
For instance, they will instantly suspend your driver’s license after you refuse the test. Refusing the test once will lead to a suspension for at least a year. If you refuse a second time, your suspension will be for two years.
On top of that, you must complete a drug screening program before you become eligible to have your driver’s license reinstated. Completing that program will be necessary if you want a restricted driving permit.
Can You Be Charged with a Crime for Using Marijuana in Your Vehicle?
One last thing to note here is that you can be charged with a crime if you used marijuana while you were inside your vehicle. It doesn’t matter whether you were driving the vehicle or not. As long as there’s proof that you used marijuana inside your vehicle, you can be charged with a crime.
If you intend to use marijuana, do so only while inside a private residence. Nothing good can come out of using marijuana elsewhere unless you have a medical exemption.
Marijuana DUI violations carry heavy penalties, and they can also stay with you for the rest of your life. Don’t sit idly by if you are staring at a mistaken DUI charge. Contact us at the Schill Law Group and allow us to help you prove your innocence.