DUI Defense Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act
This guide is an overview of the affirmative defense available to holders of valid prescriptions under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Just because your blood test came back with THC (Marijuana) does not mean that you are guilty of DUI - it is much more complicated than that.
IntroductionArizona is strict in its laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI). Arizona Revised Statutes Section 28-1381(A)(1) makes it unlawful for any person to drive or be in control of a vehicle "while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree." Section (A)(3) of the same statute explains that marijuana is one of the drugs included in a DUI violation, including the metabolite in a person*s body. Metabolite is what marijuana turns into inside the human body.
While being under the influence of marijuana while operating a vehicle is certainly included in the DUI statute, there are many issues that arise with this. In 2010, Arizona legalized medical marijuana through the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). A physician can diagnose a patient with a debilitating condition that can be treated with medical marijuana. The AMMA attempted to immunize individuals with medical marijuana cards from prosecution "if the qualifying patient does not possess more than the allowable amount of marijuana." However, this immunity does not exclude those operating a vehicle.
Affirmative Defense under the AMMAThere have been many questions and unknowns surrounding the affirmative defense set forth in the AMMA. In a recent Arizona Supreme Court Case, Dobson v. Hon. Crane McClennen, the court clarified what defense was actually available for those with a medical marijuana card who are charged with a DUI.
Specifically, the case addressed an affirmative defense by stating, "Rather than shielding registered qualifying patients from any prosecution under A.R.S. Section 28-1381(A)(3), the AMMA affords an affirmative defense for those patients who can show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the concentration of marijuana or its impairing metabolite in their bodies was insufficient to cause impairment."
The AMMA does not specifically exclude medical marijuana card holders from prosecution, but gives the option for an affirmative defense in some cases. If an individual is pulled over for a suspected DUI and is found to have marijuana in his or her system, but has a medical marijuana card, then that person is able to use the AMMA to prove that the concentration of drugs, or metabolite, in his or her system was not enough to cause impairment. The prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the presence of marijuana, or its metabolite, in a driver's system impaired the driver to the point that he or she was not in complete control of the vehicle. On the contrary, the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the presence of marijuana, or its metabolite, in the body was not significant enough to rise to the level of impairment.