You can be charged with a DUI in Arizona for driving under the influence of any drug, toxic substance, vapor releasing substance or metabolite (A.R.S 12-1381 (a)(1) and (a)(3) ). A medical marijuana card does not protect you from a DUI if law enforcement believes your driving to be impaired.
Though the number of drug related DUIs are decreasing in Arizona, in 2014 there were 3,303 arrests for drug related DUIs vs over 4,500 the year before, the trend is actually on the rise for the greater United States.
A 2014 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that one in four drivers in the US tests positive for a drug that could harm their driving ability. The number of alcohol related DUIs continue to decrease nationally, while drug related DUIs are on the rise. There was a 16% increase between 2007 and 2014 of weekend nighttime drivers testing positive for drugs in their system. During those same years there was a 50% increase of drivers testing positive for marijuana.
Limits on drug use while driving
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured through tests that analyze your breath, urine, or blood to determine if you are in the legal 0.08% range, or if you have any amount in you that could lead to impairment. Drug usage is not measured the same way.
The legal limit for driving with most drugs in your system in Arizona is zero. Arizona prescribes to “per se” laws that make it unlawful to have any amount of illegal drugs in your system. Unlike alcohol, drugs stay in you system long after you have imbibed. Trace amounts of certain drugs can be found through blood and urines tests weeks after using them.
If you do not have a medical marijuana card, it is illegal to have any amount in your system. If you do have medical marijuana card, you can still be charged with DUI and even convicted if found to be impaired by reason of marijuana. If law enforcement believes you to be impaired and has evidence like lane swerving, you could be charged with a DUI and even convicted.
Effects of drug usage on driving
Drugs that are unlawful to having in your system at any time and can result in an immediate DUI include:
- Marijuana (if you do not possess a medical card)
Taking these drugs can result in drowsiness, hallucinations, slower reflexes, euphoria, and impaired perception.
Legal prescription drugs can also result in DUI charges. Almost half of all drivers who tested positive for drugs in 2010 had used a prescription drug.
Antidepressants, sleeping pills, painkillers, decongestants, and antihistamines can all adversely effect driving and result in a DUI. Though prescription drugs are always illegal without the prescription, it can be in your best interest to not drive even with a legal prescription of drugs in your system. Some prescription drugs are proven to have similar effects on driving to BAC levels over 0.08%.
Testing for drug usage
Law enforcement cannot know through a chemical test alone whether you are impaired by drugs. They will instead follow the 12-step “Drug Recognition Expert” evaluation that includes:
Breath Alcohol Test
- Interview of the Arresting Officer
- Preliminary Examination and First Pulse
- Eye Examination
- Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests
- Vital Signs and Second Pulse
- Dark Room Examinations
- Examination for Muscle Tone
- Check for Injection Sites and Third Pulse
- Subject's Statements and Other Observations
- Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator
- Toxicological Examination
If law enforcement improperly conduct field tests, do not fully examine the suspect, illegally search your persons or car, or lack enough evidence to categorize the suspect as “impaired,” evidence against the suspect may be thrown out.
What to do if you are stopped for a DUI
Police must find probable cause to charge you with a DUI. You have rights. Everything you say and do can and will be used against you. You do not need to agree to questioning or car searches. You also do not need to consent to field sobriety tests like the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, or an eye test.
You will be required to take a blood, urine, or breath test if one is requested by a police officer. Under implied consent laws, registering for a driver's license means you have already agreed to take this test if requested. You must take this test within two hours of driving for accurate results.
Refusing to take a blood, urine, or breath test can result in suspension of your driver's license. You do not have a choice in which type of test you will take.
Contact an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. Not understanding your rights, or not being aware of possible law enforcement mistakes can hurt your case. Problems that can arise with law enforcement mistakes include: unlawful traffic stop, invalid Field Sobriety Test, no or insufficient probable cause for arrest, suspect blood test results, or lack of proof of physical control of the vehicle.
Penalties for drugged driving
A first offense drug related DUI charge will result in a minimum of 24 hours of jail time, with a maximum possibility of 6 moths of jail time. You will have to pay fines of no less than $1,800, may be required to attend drug counseling classes, and may have your license revoked.
A second offense drug related DUI will result in a minimum of 30 days of jail time, with a maximum possibility of 6 months of jail time. You will pay fines of no less than $3,400, and may be required to attend drug counseling classes.
You will also have your license revoked for 12 months. An experience DUI lawyer can help request the hearing and defend you getting your license reinstated.
Penalties will increase for repeat offenses, aggravated offenses, or if you were driving with a minor in the car while impaired.
If you have been arrested for a drug related DUI charge contact the offices of Cliff Hill today. Cliff Hill is an experience Arizona DUI lawyer who understands what evidence can be brought against you, and what your best defenses are.