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Drivers in Arizona getting busted even after blood tests prove they were not high

It is reported that drivers in Arizona are getting busted for taking marijuana a month ago and are paying big fines and losing their licenses after having gotten driving-under-the-influence citations even after blood tests prove they were not high. This is not only with Arizona but drivers in at least nine other states including Utah, Iowa, Indiana, Delaware and Rhode Island are also facing the same condition.

“It makes no sense,” says attorney Michael Alarid III, who is representing a man charged in Arizona. “But this is how prosecutors and the courts are interpreting the law. And the legislature doesn’t appear to want to change it. So we’re hoping we can get the issue before the state Supreme Court.”

Sources told that when a blood-alcohol test is taken, it detects two important chemical compounds that come from marijuana. One compound called THC makes a person high and lasts for hours. On the other hand, the other inactive compound which is created as your body neutralizes THC can linger in a person’s system for up to a month. A state law in Arizona states that if you have either of these compounds in your blood, you are guilty of a DUI.

“As things stand,” Alarid says, “a person from Arizona could go on a snowboarding trip to Colorado or Washington State, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, and then a month later he could be driving in Arizona, get stopped and be convicted of DUI.”

After showing that the marijuana chemicals found in his client’s blood were inactive, Alarid got a lower court to dismiss the original charges against his client. The court of Appeals overturned it. In its ruling in Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan, the court says, “We determined that the legislative ban extends to all substances, whether capable of causing impairment or not.”

“An alcohol DUI in Arizona gets your license suspended for 90 days,” Alarid says. “After 30 days, you can drive to work and school. On the other hand, a drug-related DUI, like marijuana, gets you the same fines and jail time but revokes your license for a year. That means a person who wasn’t impaired could be punished more harshly than someone who was.”

However, Alarid is hopeful that Arizona Supreme Court will take his case.

“In addition to the fairness issue, this doesn’t seem right in a state where citizens passed a medical marijuana law,” Alarid says. “It really puts an unfair burden on those patients.”

Even after these facts the state Court of Appeals upheld Arizona’s law, which says if any “metabolite” of a drug like marijuana is found in a person’s blood, he is guilty of DUI.

It seems that there is no statute in Arizona outlawing impaired logic. Not in Michigan or Illinois either, where even the state Supreme Courts have upheld DUI convictions of people not under the influence of anything.

Maricopa County Attorney, Bill Montgomery, was asked whether he believed it was appropriate to convict people for DUI when the only marijuana metabolite in their blood did not cause impairment. He replied, “The Court of Appeals decision is unremarkable in light of consistent case law on the issue of proscribing driving with a prohibited drug or its metabolite in a driver’s system.”

It was further questioned whether Montgomery would favor amending state law to differentiate between metabolites that cause impairment and those that do not to which he said, “No. We do not want to create an incentive to ‘game’ how long it takes for any given metabolite to leave a driver’s system.”

It is also under argument whether the risk of getting busted for a DUI charge when they are not impaired might cause some medical marijuana patients not to use the drug, no matter how much it helps them.

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About the Author

Mr. Sloan has spent the last 14+ years focusing his attention on DUI representation. He has done more than 100 felony trials and has earned numerous favorable results for his clients, including Not Guilty verdicts, dismissal of cases, and beneficial plea agreements.