Here’s How We Got A Tempe DUI Case dismissed
A few months ago, our office was hired by a young man who was charged with a marijuana DUI. He was scared, didn’t know what to do and needed a law firm he could trust. As with most of our clients, he found us online by reading several of our positive reviews from former clients. He took a leap of faith, but it turned out to be a leap he’s glad he took.
Background on Marijuana DUI Consequences
While it appears the Country is in the process of legalizing marijuana, Arizona has very strict laws for people who drive a vehicle after consuming. These laws are applicable even if a person has a valid medical marijuana card.
The difficult aspect of marijuana DUI laws is that a person does not have to be impaired by marijuana. Rather, all the state has to prove is the officer had reasonable suspicion to pull the vehicle over and had probable cause to believe the person was impaired. Impairment doesn’t necessarily have to be marijuana. Being tired could be impaired, being sick could be impaired, etc. Once the officer establishes probable clause, if blood results come back with any trace of THC, a person can be charged with a marijuana DUI.
If, however, a person has a medical marijuana card, the accused has the opportunity to demonstrate that his ability to operate a vehicle was not impaired. For a medical marijuana card holder, non-impairment is a legal defense.
If convicted, a person must serve at least one to 10 days in jail. The most significant consequence, however, is losing their driver’s license for 1 year. Don’t make the mistake of thinking smoking a little marijuana before driving is harmless. In some cases, a marijuana DUI has worse consequences than an alcohol DUI.
What is a Traceable Amount of THC
While it is true that marijuana can stay in a person’s body for up to 30 days, what the compound that stays is a metabolite of THC. Arizona changed its marijuana laws a couple years ago to criminalize only THC – not it’s metabolite. Generally speaking, THC will only stay in a person’s blood stream for a day.
What is the Legal Limit of THC
Unlike some states, Arizona has not established an amount of THC required to presumably impair a person’s ability to drive. I attend numerous seminars on an annual basis. The last seminar attended, an Arizona scientist presented that he does not believe a threshold for marijuana, similar to a .08 for alcohol, is accurate in determining whether a person’s ability to operate a car is impaired. Rather, he believes impairment all depends on the individual. This means, a person could have a strong tolerance for Marijuana and a high level of THC would not affect them. Conversely, a person could have little or no tolerance and even a very low amount of THC could impair their ability to drive.
So The Tempe Case Was Dismissed
Our client was pulled over for failing to make a proper right turn. This is a ridiculous reason to pull someone over, but is seen in almost half of our DUI cases. An improper right turn means a person didn’t turn into the closest lane. Stand on any corner during the day and you will observe most cars making an improper right turn. Once the sun goes down, police use this as a chance to investigate as many DUIs as possible.
The officer involved in this case was from the Gilbert Police Department and was assisting Tempe with a DUI task force. After initiating the stop, he said our client had large pupils and raised taste buds. He probed our client on whether he smoked marijuana. Our client stuck to his story and denied consumption. The officer kept pressing him. Officer asked why his pupils were large. Client’s response was he had naturally large pupils. The officers admitted that he even had naturally large pupils and people ask him all the time whether he is “bombed.” I’m not making this up, it was all recorded. Officer used informal language and behavior to act like our client’s friend.
Officer ordered client out of his car to conduct field sobriety tests. Client passed every single test. Officer was too stubborn to let this kid go. He kept pressing him to confess and said he was going to give him one last chance; suggesting he would go easier on him if he admitted to consuming marijuana. Officer noted our client was nervous and shaking. NO KIDDING. Even as a married adult, father of two, I shake like a leaf when I’m around police – especially if they were grilling me. After about thirty minutes, our client admitted to consuming marijuana earlier in the day.
After client admitted, officer’s demeanor changed. He went from a good cop who acted like one of the guys, to a stern, condescending cop. Officers like this are the ones that give the hard working, honest police officers a bad wrap. This officer should be ashamed of himself for tricking this young man into a confession.
Even after spending countless hours investigating, making legal arguments and pleading our case, the prosecutor would simply not dismiss. With nothing to lose, we decided to set the matter for trial and have the State of Arizona prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the blood results were accurate and reliable and our medical marijuana client was impaired.
The prosecutor continued to play hard ball. After months of negotiating, we received a phone call two days prior to trial informing us that the DUI charge would be dismissed and client would be given the opportunity to plead to Reckless Driving. This was a compromise, but given the potential harsh consequences associated with a conviction, Reckless Driving was a good way of hedging our bet.
If our client did not have a lawyer, he would have been prosecuted for a marijuana DUI and I highly doubt he would have received a Reckless Driving offer. It is unfortunate we had to jump through so many hoops and client had to spend his hard earned money. At the end of the day, however, client received a tremendous outcome.