Like many other states, Arizona has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. But Arizona also has strict laws regarding driving while impaired by marijuana and other substances. This article explains how drugged driving can lead to a DUI conviction as well as the associated penalties.
Arizona's DUI laws prohibit driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. For purposes of the state's DUI laws, being "under the influence" includes being impaired to the "slightest degree" or having any amount of "dangerous drugs" in your system.
Impairment. Arizona prohibits driving while under the influence of any drug, liquor, or vapor that impairs the person's ability to drive to the slightest degree. To get a conviction at trial, the prosecutor will generally need to prove the driver consumed some substance that impaired his or her ability to drive safely. Proof of impairment might include blood test results, expert testimony, and the observations of the arresting officers such as unsteady eye movement and slurred speech. A physician's prescription is not a legal defense for DUIs based on impairment.
Dangerous drugs. A driver can also be convicted of a DUI if he or she has any measurable amount of a dangerous drug in his or her system. Arizona's statutory list of dangerous drugs includes street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines but also many prescription medications. Holding a valid prescription may be a legal defense in DUI prosecutions.
Recreational marijuana use. Marijuana isn't on the dangerous-drug list. However, a driver can still get a marijuana DUI based on impairment.
Drugged driving is generally a misdemeanor and the penalties are the same as those for drunk driving. Arizona counts all prior DUI offenses within the last seven years.
First offense. A first drugged driving offense will result in at least ten days in jail and $1,250 in fines and fees. The jail term can be reduced to one day if the offender completes a treatment program. The court can also order the use of an ignition interlock device (IID).
Second offense. A second drugged driving offense will result in 90 days in jail (at least 30 days before probationary release), at least $2,500 in fines and fees, and a one-year license revocation. A restricted license may be available to the offender after completing 45 days of the revocation.
Treatment. All offenders must also obtain an alcohol and drug evaluation as part of probation. Failure to complete screening and recommended treatment can result in additional penalties.
Any subsequent drugged driving violation will be an aggravated DUI and carries felony penalties.
At the time of arrest, the officer will likely request the driver submit to a chemical test to determine the concentration of drugs in the driver's system. A driver with any amount of dangerous drug will be suspended for 90 days. A restricted license is usually available after 30 days of the suspension.