Now that it is legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and use small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes in Arizona, we see an increased number of marijuana-related DUIs. While it may be legal to use marijuana for recreational purposes, it is still very much illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana—just as it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol even if you are old enough to drink.
Arizona has some of the harshest DUI penalties in the country. These penalties apply regardless of whether you get arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or any other substance. As a result, if you are facing a marijuana DUI in Arizona, you need to take your situation very seriously and defend yourself by all means available.
So, how do you defend against a marijuana DUI?
7 Potential Defenses to a Marijuana DUI in Arizona
There are several potential defenses to marijuana DUI charges under Arizona law. While some of these defenses are similar to those for alcohol DUIs, there are marijuana-specific DUI defenses. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the defenses a Phoenix marijuana DUI lawyer may be able to assert on your behalf include:
1. The Prosecution Cannot Prove You Were Under the Influence
Unlike alcohol DUI cases, the police do not have a way to objectively measure a person’s level of impairment from marijuana during a traffic stop. There is no analog to the Intoxilyzer for measuring the amount of THC in a person’s system. While the police can require suspects to provide blood samples under Arizona’s implied consent law, there can be issues regarding the reliability of these tests and what they really prove concerning a driver’s level of impairment.
If the prosecution cannot prove that you were driving under the influence of marijuana, then you are not guilty of a marijuana DUI. Thus, when facing a marijuana DUI charge, one of the first questions you need to answer is whether the prosecution has the evidence it needs to convict you. If the prosecution has the evidence it needs, is this evidence admissible in court? If your blood test result is unreliable for any reason, the prosecution shouldn’t be able to use it against you.
2. You Were Not in “Actual Physical Control” of Your Vehicle
To be guilty of a marijuana DUI in Arizona, the police need to observe you in “actual physical control” of your vehicle. “Actual physical control” includes not only driving but also being in a position in which you can drive (i.e., sitting in the driver’s seat with the key).
Arizona’s definition of a “vehicle” can also provide a defense in some marijuana DUI cases. While the DUI statute covers cars, trucks, SUVs, and golf carts, it does not cover:
- Electric bicycles or scooters
- Motorized skateboards
- Any devices moved by human power
- Personal delivery devices
- Scrap vehicles
- Personal mobile cargo-carrying devices to
- Motorized wheelchairs
- Electric personal assistive mobility devices
3. You Were Taking “Temporary Shelter” in Your Vehicle
Even if you were sitting in the driver’s seat with the key, you might be able to avoid a DUI conviction by arguing that you were using your car for “temporary shelter.” If you were sitting in your car because you knew it was unsafe to drive and you had nowhere else to go at the time, an experienced Phoenix defense lawyer might be able to help you avoid a marijuana DUI.
Asserting the “temporary shelter” defense is not easy, and the defense is only available in a fairly limited set of circumstances. But, if it applies in your case, it could be all you need to avoid the costly consequences of a conviction for a marijuana DUI.
4. The Police Pulled You Over Without Reasonable Suspicion
The police can only legally pull you over if they have “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed a crime or traffic infraction. If the police pulled you over without reasonable suspicion, then your traffic stop was unconstitutional, and any evidence obtained after your traffic stop should be inadmissible in court.
Importantly, the police don’t have to pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. If the police pull you over for speeding or a broken taillight, for example, they can still arrest you for a marijuana DUI. But, if you got pulled over because of your color, race, or gender, this could provide you with a complete defense in court.
5. The Police Arrested You Without Probable Cause
The police can only arrest you for a marijuana DUI if they have “probable cause” to believe that you are guilty. If the police arrested you arbitrarily, maliciously, or otherwise without “probable cause,” the prosecution’s evidence against you should be inadmissible in this case as well.
6. The Police Failed to Read Your Rights
Lots of people have misunderstandings about their Miranda rights. When the police arrest you, they do not have to read your Miranda rights automatically. They only have to read your rights before conducting a “custodial interrogation.” If you answered questions in police custody without being read your rights, then your statements (and any additional evidence obtained based on your statements) may be legally inadmissible.
7. The Prosecutor’s Office or the Court Violated Your Constitutional Rights
Once you are charged with a marijuana DUI, you have several constitutional rights. If the prosecutor’s office or the court violates your rights, this could entitle you to a dismissal or acquittal. This is true even if you were driving under the influence of marijuana at the time of your arrest.
Talk to our Phoenix Marijuana DUI Lawyer about Your Case for Free
What defenses can you use to fight your marijuana DUI? Contact us to find out. Call 480-405-7922 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Phoenix marijuana DUI lawyer.