Marijuana and Driving: AZ Supreme Court Asked to Review Recent Appellate Decision Upholding Zero-Tolerance Law

Categories: Only in Arizona

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Phoenix lawyer Michael Alarid wants the state Supreme Court to review a recent ruling on the state's tough marijuana-DUI law.
The Arizona Supreme Court has been asked to review a precedent-setting state Court of Appeals ruling that upholds the state's law against marijuana in a motorist's bloodstream.

The appellate court ruled last month that the State Legislature intended to criminalize the presence of any metabolite of marijuana in a motorist's blood, whether or not the driver was actually impaired, and reversed a trial court decision to the contrary.

Critics across the country blasted the decision as ludicrous because it allows prosecutors to win drugged-driving cases against motorists who used marijuana days or even weeks before they were cited.

Today, Phoenix attorney Michael Alarid filed a petition for review with the state's High Court on behalf of his client, Hrach Shilgevorkyan.

Jennifer Liewer, spokeswoman for the court, writes that Alarid and the prosecutor (in this case, the office of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery), will write and submit briefs to defend their positions. The case then will be put on a future court agenda, "where the justices will decide whether or not to hear the case."

Two types of marijuana metabolites are key to the case: hydroxy-THC and carboxy-THC. Only the former has been shown to produce a "high" in marijuana users. The carboxy-THC is considered an "inactive secondary metabolite," according to Alarid's petition.

Shilgevorkyan was stopped in December 2010 for speeding and making an unsafe lane change. Suspecting him of being under the influence, the state Department of Public Safety officer arrested the driver and his blood drawn at a DPS station. Lab results showed the presence of eight nanograms per milliliter of carboxy-THC, but no active metabolite.

State law prohibits driving under the influence of a drug and "its" metabolite. Alarid makes several arguments, including one that "its" is singular and should not be interpreted to be plural.

As with his initial appeal of the municipal court's initial guilty finding of Shilgervorkyan, Alarid also points out that with 18 states -- including Arizona -- having passed medical-marijuana laws, and with two states (Colorado and Washington) legalizing pot outright, people from other states who legally toked up days ago would be guilty of drugged driving in Arizona even if they hadn't been under the influence for days.

The way the law currently is written, it's just like prosecuting someone for DUI who drank a six-pack at home last week.

This new petition is the perfect chance for the state Supreme Court to take a stance against statutory nonsense.



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13 comments
bigrobstercraws
bigrobstercraws

hitb4uhit:  Wrong.  Your MMJ card is a reason for cops to get a warrant for your blood.    Trust me, I got a sober DUI and I'm a medical marijuana patient who didn't medicate all day when I got pulled over.  This DUI law being upheld by the Appeals Court gives me zero hope the AZ Supreme Court act like human beings.  Jan Brewer tried to get medical marijuana patients fired from their jobs.  The only thing a MMJ card allows you is access to pot stores and immunity from possession when not inside a car.  Even if you don't have weed on you.  So if you have an MMJ card, know you're legally impaired to drive the moment you woke up even if you haven't medicated in 29 days.  Also, did you know weed DUI have stricter sentencing than alcohol DUIs?  So a sober MMJ patient can be more severely punished under AZ law than a drunk behind a wheel. 

hitb4uhit
hitb4uhit

That is why you NEED your mmj card in AZ...it gives you protection from this prohibitionist big brother law...

36-2802. Arizona Medical Marijuana Act; limitations paragraph D: Operating, navigating or being in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana, except that a registered qualifying patient shall not be considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.

sliperymike
sliperymike

all the years I rode my Harley baked,like the july desert I was riding on,never had an accident,during that time I buried three buddies from alcohol!

you can tell I miss the old days,when sex was dangerous and weed was safe!

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

If the driver is not impaired and a search of his/her vehicle is negative for contraband, it seems to me that there is no crime. It seems to me as well that if the driver passes a field sobriety test, there is no justification for taking things any further. Where is the probable cause here?

squash
squash

Last I checked, breathalyzers AND blood tests to determine your blood alcohol content tested for alcohol itself, not it's metabolites.

squash
squash

So they test for metabolites of THC to determine if an individual is under the influence of THC. Do they test for alcohol metabolites to determine if an individual is under the influence of alcohol? I'm thinking not. That would be like giving someone a DUI just for having metabolites in their blood and not actual alcohol.

valleynative
valleynative

Over 20 years ago, the federal government funded a study to determine exactly how drivers behave differently under the influence of THC, in order to allow local police to identify people driving under the influence.

The results of the study were that people on pot tend to drive slightly more slowly than normal, but not really enough to detect.  They found no change to mechanical driving ability, reaction times, or to judgment.

jammerk65
jammerk65

bill montgomery,kimberly yee.....members of the mmj axis of evil.....vote em out of office in the the next election!

bigrobstercraws
bigrobstercraws

@eric.nelson745 Field tests are designed to gather evidence.  A lot of sober people can't pass them.  And they are subjective.  When you have the largest organized crime syndicate in the world running them, do you honestly think you can "pass" an FST?  LMAO. 

stoner
stoner

@eric.nelson745 The probabal cause is being a MMJ card holder. at the risk sounding paranoid, I felt that getting a medical card was a set up before the law took affect

bigrobstercraws
bigrobstercraws

@valleynative Current studies contradict that.  Stoned drivers are actually twice as likely to cause an accident as sober ones in some British study.  It was scientific.  However, drivers at the legal limit of 0.8 are 10 times more likely.  Also, American insurance studies indicate accident rates in stoned drivers as low as sober.  However, dude you've been really, really baked.  You're not a good driver.  You're a slow driver getting in people's way.  I do get the one or two bowl drivers based on usage...etc. 

bigrobstercraws
bigrobstercraws

@jammerk65 Seeing the name, Bill Montgomery makes me want to puke.  I can't use my medication for nausea any more due to the damn state.

bigrobstercraws
bigrobstercraws

@stoner @eric.nelson745 I'm with you.  I just got a sober DUI charge.  I hadn't toked all day.  Got pulled over for expired tags.  Turns out I had a suspended lic I didn't know about.  My bad.  So they were just talking to me about weight-lifting since I just got done working out and I'm a big guy.  While waiting for the tow guy.  When the cop found my weed in the trunk, all of a sudden they're arresting me for DUI after I show my MMJ card and refuse the BS FST.  So not at one point did they suspect I was impaired since they were telling me the best ways to get home from that exact point, until they found my pot.  Then, the MMJ card and all of a sudden a DUI. 

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