The Arizona Supreme Court ruled today that drivers with marijuana metabolites in their system cannot be prosecuted for DUI impairment under that basis alone. According to Arizona Revised Statutes §28-1381(A)(3), it is unlawful for a driver to be in actual physical control of a vehicle "While there is any drug defined in section [A.R.S.] §13-3401 or its metabolite in the person's body." The Court concluded that the phrase "its metabolite" does not include the metabolite of marijuana, Carboxy-Tetrahydrocannibinol ("Carboxy-THC") – a non-impairing metabolite of Cannabis (aka marijuana), a proscribed drug listed in §13-3401.
After Arizona voters passed the medical marijuana initiative in 2010, legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, individuals legally using marijuana were still exposed to criminal prosecution under the State's interpretation of marijuana and its metabolite(s). The Court noted in its opinion that "…because § 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the State to prove that the marijuana was illegally ingested, prosecutors can charge legal users under the (A)(3) provision. Because Carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State's position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana. Such a prohibition would apply even when the driver had no impairing substance in his or her body and notwithstanding the State's ability to test both for THC, the primary substance that causes impairment, and Hydroxy-THC, the metabolite capable of causing impairment."
The Court also concluded that the State's interpretation of "metabolites" would expose individuals to "criminal liability" no matter how long the metabolite remained in a person's system and whether or not it had any impairing effect. According to the Court's Opinion, during oral arguments, the State acknowledged that "if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted."
If you have been charged with a marijuana related DUI – whether you have a medical marijuana card or not – this ruling could affect the outcome of your case. Contact the Firm today to determine whether this ruling is applicable to your case and to better understand your legal options.
The Firm handles all types of DUI cases, including both drug and/or alcohol related DUI cases – 1st Time DUI, Extreme DUI, Felony DUI, Accident/Injury related DUI, DUI involving Homicide and any other DUI case in the Phoenix area and statewide. Mr. Buckallew is a Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney, having been certified by the State Bar of Arizona. He has extensive experience in DUI litigation and has represented countless individuals in both misdemeanor and felony courts throughout the course of his career.
**This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact the Firm to schedule a consultation regarding your case.