Supreme Court Rules on Marijuana DUI Charges

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Supreme Court Rules on Marijuana DUI Charges

The Arizona Supreme Court has just ruled that authorities are not allowed to prosecute Arizona motorists for driving under the influence (“DUI”) of marijuana unless the person is impaired at the time of the stop. This decision overturned a state Court of Appeals ruling from last year.

Two Chemical Compounds in Marijuana

There are two chemical compounds in marijuana that show up in blood and urine tests.  One compound causes impairment, while the other does not, but stays in a pot user’s system for weeks. Previously prosecutors had warned that anyone using medical marijuana would risk DUI charges if they got behind the wheel of a car. The Supreme Court’s opinion removed that threat - explaining the presence of a non-psychoactive compound does not constitute impairment under the law.

Arizona Man’s DUI Case

The Court’s ruling stems from the case of an Arizona man who had been stopped by police for speeding. He later admitted to having smoked marijuana the night prior. According to court records his blood tests revealed marijuana compounds in his system, but not the form that causes impairment. Yet he was charged with DUI of a drug and operating a vehicle with the presence of the drug’s metabolite in his system.

Ambiguous Statute About Marijuana and DUI

The state Supreme Court noted that the language of Arizona’s current statute is ambiguous and does not distinguish the marijuana metabolite that causes impairment from the one that does not. Thus making it hard to determine if criminal charges are warranted. But prosecutors had argued that the statute’s reference to “its metabolite” when referring to drug compounds detected in a driver’s system covered all compounds related to drugs and not just compounds that cause impairment.

The high court panel felt that this interpretation,“leads to absurd results…Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect.”

If you’ve suffered a motor vehicle accident due to a drug-related DUI, you need the expert advice of motor vehicle attorneys such as those at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC.

Source: Huffington Post, Arizona Court Overturns Marijuana DUI Ruling, April 22, 2014

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