When we hear the phrase “driving under the influence,” most of us will assume that this refers to driving while intoxicated. While driving under the influence of alcohol is the most common substance we see in most DUI cases, this does not rule out being under the influence of substances like prescription pills and now, medical marijuana. We briefly touched on this topic a few months back when there was talk of the Arizona Supreme Court reviewing the decision to prosecute drivers under the influence of marijuana. Now the court’s final ruling states that a medical marijuana card does not grant immunity from DUIs but it can be used for their defense. To explore more on this topic, DUI lawyer Mark Weingart is blogging from his Tempe, AZ firm to explain what this could mean for medical marijuana card holders and how this ruling will affect the defense against DUI charges.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled at the end of 2015 that individuals with medical marijuana cards are not immediately immune from DUI laws. The debate first came about due to two conflicting laws, Arizona DUI laws and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) passed in 2010. Arizona DUI laws state that it is illegal to drive while impaired under the influence of marijuana. An individual is in violation of this law if there is probable cause to believe the individual is impaired by marijuana and by the presence of metabolites in the bloodstream, which is a residue that stays in the body after the person is no longer considered impaired by the drug.
This issue was brought to light after two cases where individuals were charged with two counts of DUI after traces of marijuana were found in their bloodstream. The two charges were an A1 offense, which is concerned whether a person is impaired or not, and an A3 offense, which determines whether a drug was in a person’s system of not. While both cases were able to get A1 charges dropped, the A3 charges were upheld. The individuals appealed the ruling and stated that the A3 charge conflicted with the legal medical use of marijuana granted by the AMMA.
In the end, the Supreme Court ruled that a medical card does not grant immunity from DUI charges. However, they did rule that people can defend against these charges by using evidence in court showing that they weren’t impaired.
While this may sound like a great defense, there’s big problem with proving that an individual was not impaired. Unlike alcohol consumption, there’s no recognized threshold to identify the concentration of metabolite that would cause impairment. Since there is no standard for marijuana use like the blood alcohol level for alcohol consumption, people are going to have a hard time proving that their marijuana usage didn’t impair their ability to drive.
Even using the blood concentration of THC, the active chemical in marijuana, is an unreliable way to measure impairment. Marijuana affects individuals differently, which makes the limit arbitrary. In Colorado, another state with legal marijuana usage, a defined limit is set so there is no gray area when it comes to marijuana DUIs. For now, the usage of marijuana and DUI defense is up in the air and will really vary from case to case.
Opinions on the ruling from the Supreme Court may vary, but the takeaway should be the same; Impaired driving is dangerous, whether you’re driving impaired due to alcohol, prescription pills or marijuana. If you believe that you’ve consumed a dangerous amount of any substance, stay away from driving for the safety of others and yourself. In the end, you can end up saving lives, legal problems, and major personal stresses by not driving under the influence of any substance.
If you’ve been charged with DUI, hiring a knowledgeable lawyer is one of the best things you can do for your case. Getting help from an attorney that is experienced with DUI cases can make all the difference in your case. Mark Weingart and his talented team at Weingart Law Firm have made a difference for countless DUI cases. Contact the Weingart Firm today to schedule your no-obligation with Mark Weingart.