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In the past few years, general perspectives and laws around marijuana have shifted in Arizona. In 2010, medical marijuana was legalized. In 2020, Arizonans passed Proposition 207, which legalized the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Because of these changes, marijuana DUI laws in the State are enforced and prosecuted differently than they were even a few years ago. While it is still a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana, there are important developments in the law that might affect how your case moves forward in court if you are arrested for a DUI.

Changes Based on Proposition 207

Historically in Arizona, defendants charged with DUIs have faced a tough legal landscape when it comes to marijuana. Before the passage of Proposition 207, prosecutors did not need to prove that defendants charged with a DUI were impaired to drive – they only needed to show that there was any amount of drugs in the defendant’s body. Under Proposition 207, the situation has changed: now, you cannot be found guilty of a marijuana DUI unless you are “impaired to the slightest degree.” This means that prosecutors now have to prove both that you were under the influence of marijuana and that you were “impaired to the slightest degree” while driving. This added element makes it more difficult for prosecutors to prove their cases. It is important to note that these elements for a DUI case are the same whether or not a defendant has an Arizona medical marijuana card.

Proposition 207 also changes how police officers in Arizona can investigate crimes. Before the passage of the law, officers could use the smell of burnt marijuana as evidence of a crime. Now, however, the smell of burnt marijuana no longer serves as sufficient reason for an officer to infer criminal conduct. There is one important exception to this rule: if an officer believes that a driver is under the influence because that driver commits a traffic offense, the officer can still rely on the smell of burnt marijuana to make an arrest. Under other circumstances, though, because of changes enacted under Proposition 207, the smell of burnt marijuana cannot serve as grounds for an officer to make an arrest in Arizona.

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This holiday season, drivers will be especially eager to visit their family and friends for annual celebrations. With many people having stayed home last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, groups could be gathering in higher numbers this year compared to years past. It is important to be aware, however, that as more Arizonians are out on the road, police officers will be increasing their efforts to conduct traffic stops and charge people with DUIs.

The holidays are always a time when troopers maintain a more active presence on the roads, and, according to a recent news report, troopers have pulled more people over around 2021 holidays than they had in 2019 and 2020. Fourth of July, Labor Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Halloween all saw increases in the number of DUI arrests compared to 2020. In particular, 2021 Halloween arrests were more than Halloween arrests in 2019 and 2020 combined.

The day before Thanksgiving is the first day to be extra careful on the roads this holiday season; the NHTSA reports that 800 people died in the U.S. due to DUI accidents during the Thanksgiving holiday period from 2013 to 2017. Popularly known as “Whisky Wednesday”, the day before Thanksgiving will be a day when state troopers to pull over more people than they typically would.

In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI, the court denied the defendant’s request for a new verdict. The defendant was found guilty of driving while intoxicated and appealed by arguing that the court unfairly instructed the jury to take into account the fact that he had fled the scene when deciding that he was guilty. The court disagreed, ultimately denying the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving a white truck with a female passenger. While driving, the defendant sideswiped another car; then, instead of pulling over, he continued driving down the road. The driver of the second car decided to follow the defendant, noting his license plate and calling the police. The defendant turned onto another road, both occupants got out of the truck, and the female passenger was picked up by another car. The defendant stayed in the truck and drove back to the scene of the accident. He exited the truck and began walking down the street where the accident had occurred.

The police arrived and asked the defendant to stop so they could gather information. The defendant continued walking, initially refusing to stop before eventually complying and answering the officer’s questions. The officer later reported not only that the defendant was intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of .272 percent, but also that his license had been suspended prior to the accident. The State charged the defendant with two counts of aggravated DUI; one for driving impaired with a suspended license and the other for driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit of .08 percent.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI, the defendant’s request for a new verdict was denied. The defendant was found guilty of manslaughter, assault, endangerment, and driving under the influence. He appealed, arguing the verdict was unreasonable because the court allowed the jury to consider a prior DUI offense when making a decision regarding the present DUI offense. The court disagreed, ultimately denying the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving one evening when he hit another vehicle, launching the vehicle into oncoming traffic. The vehicles involved in the collision caught fire, and one driver died, while several others were injured. When police interviewed the defendant at the scene, they noticed that his eyes were droopy, his speech was slurred, and he was unable to hold his balance. He was arrested, and he later admitted to having taken two Oxycodone pills fifteen minutes before driving. A blood-draw further revealed that he had several other sedative drugs in his system.

At the time of the collision, the defendant had a prior misdemeanor conviction for DUI and was required to have an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he drove. Even though the defendant was aware of this requirement, he did not have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI stop, the defendant’s request for evidence to be suppressed was denied. The defendant was found guilty of drug possession. He appealed, arguing the police officer’s search of his vehicle was illegal. The appellate court denied the appeal because it found that there were no legal issues with the officer’s DUI stop and that he did, in fact, have probable cause to search the defendant’s vehicle. Because of what the officer found during the DUI stop, the defendant was charged with much more serious crimes, including possession of drugs for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer in Arizona stopped a speeding vehicle driven by an acquaintance of the defendant. Once the officer stopped the car, he noticed the defendant sitting in the back seat with an alcohol container by his feet. The officer searched the vehicle and began a DUI investigation, all the while noticing that the defendant seemed “abnormally nervous.” Upon a thorough search, the officer discovered a 122-gram bag of methamphetamine in the glove box and a smaller bag in the console. He also found a glass pipe. Later, the defendant was charged with possession of dangerous drugs for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle.

The defendant appealed, arguing that the drugs should be suppressed because the officer did not have permission to search his vehicle. He maintained that because the officer did not have probable cause to conduct the search, the incriminating evidence should not have been used at trial.

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In order to obtain a conviction for a DUI offense, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a blood-alcohol level at or above the legal limit at the time the defendant was operating a motor vehicle. Because police usually rely on a non-portable breath alcohol analyzer or a blood test to prove intoxication, defendants are often not tested until several hours after they have been stopped by police. When a test result after arrest demonstrates a blood alcohol level below the legal limit at the time of the test, police and prosecutors rely on a scientific technique known as retrograde extrapolation to estimate a defendant’s blood alcohol content at the time they were operating a motor vehicle. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently affirmed the aggravated DUI conviction of a defendant whose blood alcohol level had been estimated using retrograde extrapolation.

Retrograde extrapolation is a technique used by police departments and prosecutors to determine and prove a person’s blood-alcohol level at the time they were operating a vehicle, as opposed to when the sample was actually collected. Crime lab chemists will apply a formula that approximate the average rate of decline and a person’s blood-alcohol level and use that to estimate a person’s blood-alcohol level at a time prior to the sample being taken. Although Arizona courts accept retrograde extrapolation as a method of proving intoxication, it is far from a perfect science.

The results of a retrograde extrapolation can be inaccurate for several reasons. First, each person metabolizes alcohol at a different rate, and simply applying the average rate of metabolization to every sample guarantees some inaccurate results. Furthermore, if a defendant consumed alcohol shortly before their arrest, their blood alcohol level may increase rather than decrease in the time before their sample is taken. If standard retrograde extrapolation is applied, the result would be inflated and inaccurate.

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a common crime in Arizona. However, there is an often-held misunderstanding about the serious consequences an Arizona DUI conviction can carry. Contrary to popular belief, these are not minor traffic offenses. DUI cases are taken very seriously by Arizona law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, and a conviction for a DUI offense can have lifelong consequences.

The seriousness of a DUI arrest depends on a few things. Most notably, whether you have a prior conviction for a DUI. Generally speaking, first-offense DUIs are less serious than subsequent offenses. For example, the punishment for a first-offense DUI is ten consecutive days in jail, a fine of at least $250, and mandatory community service. In addition, you will need to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle before you can drive again. If you are convicted of a second DUI, then the punishment you face will increase significantly. For example, the jail time the comes along with a second offense increases to up to 90 days in jail. However, if you participate in drug or alcohol classes, you can have a portion of that sentence suspended.

In addition to the criminal penalties associated with a DUI conviction, you can also suffer a host of collateral consequences. Collateral consequences are the non-criminal aspects of a conviction that impact your life, often making it much more challenging to get a job, attend school, or obtain certain benefits. For example, if you are convicted of an Arizona DUI, employers can refuse to hire you, and you may not be eligible for certain professional licenses. Landlords may also ask you on a rental application if you have ever been convicted of a crime, which impacts their decision of who to rent to.

Recently, an Arizona appellate court affirmed a lower court’s convictions of a defendant in a DUI case involving a minor passenger. The defendant appealed the lower court’s decision, arguing that there was a fundamental error in the record. The appellate court found that there was no fundamental error because the court proceedings were properly conducted and afforded the defendant all of his constitutional and statutory rights. The appellate court affirmed the defendant’s convictions. Operating a vehicle while under the influence and with a minor present in the vehicle results in heightened penalties in the state of Arizona.

The Facts of the Case

On the night of the incident, a police officer was driving on a highway and observed a vehicle stopped on an exit ramp. The defendant was the driver, and his eight-year-old son was also in the car. According to the arresting officer, the defendant stumbled while getting out of the car and spoke with slurred speech, prompting the Arizona Department of Public Safety Troopers to investigate. The troopers observed the defendant’s bloodshot watery eyes and the smell of alcohol, and the defendant’s subsequent field sobriety tests indicated he may be under the influence of alcohol. The troopers administered a blood test, revealing the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to be 0.187, which is above the 0.08 threshold and thus indicates driving while impaired.

After an Arizona DUI conviction, drivers must often install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle before having their driving privileges reinstated. An ignition interlock is a small device installed near the steering column that requires a driver to blow into a tube before starting their vehicle. If there is any alcohol on the driver’s breath, the car will not start. Ignition interlock devices are designed to prevent those with a DUI conviction from getting behind the wheel after having anything to drink. In Arizona, for those required to install an interlock device on their vehicle, it is a crime to drive a vehicle without one.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case involving the question of whether the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew he was required to install an ignition interlock device of his vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that the prosecution must present proof that the defendant “knew or should have known an ignition-interlock restriction was in effect at the time of the offense.” Thus, the court vacated the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, in 2015, the defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI offense. As a part of the defendant’s sentence, he was required to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he drove once his license was reinstated. Initially, the defendant complied with the requirement. The Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), told the defendant that he could remove the device on June 1, 2017.

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An appellate court recently issued an opinion in an appeal stemming from a case involving a woman convicted of an Arizona drug DUI offense. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms after a jury convicted her of several drug and driving offenses. Amongst several issues, the defendant appeals arguing that the trial court improperly admitted an inflammatory photograph of the victim. The case arose from an incident where, while allegedly under the influence of several intoxicants, the defendant drove her vehicle around Tucson, causing several collisions. The accidents resulted in damage to seven vehicles, injuries to one victim, and the death of another.

The defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting a photograph of the victim. The photograph was a picture of the victim when she was alive and unrelated to the accident. The defendant contends that the photograph “inflamed the jury,” resulting in a prejudicial error. In this case, the trial court did instruct the jury not to be “influenced” by sympathy or prejudice.

Under Arizona law, a defendant may establish a fundamental error by proving that the error:

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