Articles Posted in Drugs

Many state and national campaigns attempt to combat driving under the influence; however, they primarily focus on alcohol and illicit drug use. As such, many people are unaware that Arizona law permits prosecuting individuals for driving under the influence (DUI) involving legal prescription medications. The cases generally focus on the person’s impairment rather than the drug’s concentration in their system. The penalties for prescription drug DUI in Arizona can range and may involve:

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Driver license suspension
  • Community service
  • Ignition interlock device installation
  • Treatment programs
  • Traffic school
  • Fines and assessments

Even those taking the medications as directed may face Arizona DUI charges. Two DUI statutes, ARS § 28-1381(A)(1) and ARS § 1381(A)(3), govern prescription medication DUIs. ARS § 28-1381(A)(1) refers to cases involving “impairment to the slightest degree.” This statute makes it illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired by any drug or alcohol. This zero-tolerance law strictly prohibits driving under these conditions, regardless of whether the driver has a legal prescription. ARS § 1381(A)(3) involves “driving with an illegal drug in one’s Body” and generally refers to non-prescribed prescription medications and street drugs.

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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:

Recently, a state appellate court issued a hard-to-swallow opinion in an Arizona drug possession case. The case illustrates police officers’ power when conducting a traffic stop, especially while investigating DUI charges.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, two women were leaving a casino by car. A police officer noticed that the vehicle had only one working headlight and pulled the driver over. The defendant, who was the front-seat passenger, sat and waited as the officer conducted the investigation.

Initially, the officer asked if he could search the car. The driver declined, explaining that it was her son’s car. However, the driver allowed the officer to search her purse, where he found nothing. Then, the officer informed the driver that he suspected she was under the influence. He removed the driver, performed field sobriety tests, and determined that she was not impaired.

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In Arizona, it is against the law to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Routinely, clients facing Arizona DUI charges are surprised to see that their blood or breath contained as much of a substance as the test results indicate. Thus, this post is dedicated to informing motorists about the length of time that many of the most common drugs stay in the human body. To start, it is important to note that alcohol is the only drug that police can detect through a breath test.

Thus, if police officers suspect someone of driving under the influence of alcohol, they may ask the driver to take a breath test. However, if police suspect someone is driving under the influence of drugs, they will most often take a blood test. Blood tests will detect both drugs and alcohol but breath tests will only detect alcohol.

The next critical fact to keep in mind is that someone can be found guilty of driving under the influence of prescribed medication. Occasionally, therapeutic doses of some prescription medications will not put someone in jeopardy. However, certain prescribed medications, if found in sufficient levels, can result in a DUI conviction.

An Arizona appeals court recently affirmed a defendant’s DUI convictions in a DUI case involving the use of prescription drugs, that the defendant claimed were used as prescribed. According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendant was driving down a two-lane road one evening while speeding and passing other vehicles. At some point, the defendant lost control while passing two cars, and crashed into two motorcycles. At the scene, an officer asked the defendant to submit to a blood draw, and he agreed. His blood tested positive for lorazepam and methadone. The level of both drugs in the defendant’s blood were within the therapeutic range.

Lorazepam is a prescription drug, often used to treat anxiety. It can impair driving, by making a driver drowsy and slowing the driver’s reaction time, even when taken as prescribed. The defendant testified that he was prescribed lorazepam, and had taken it two days before the crash. Methadone is a narcotic, generally used to treat heroin addiction. It also can cause sleepiness and can slow reaction time, even when taken within the therapeutic range. The defendant took a dose of methadone at a clinic on the morning of the crash. There is also evidence that the combination of the two drugs can also compound their effects.

At the conclusion of the trial, the defendant was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of criminal damage and two counts of driving under the influence. The defendant appealed his convictions and sentences. On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence at trial did not support the DUI convictions, because, while he had both lorazepam and methadone in his body, he was using the drugs as prescribed.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case involving allegations that the defendant possessed methamphetamine with the intent to deliver. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the results of a blood test that was administered to the defendant on the day of her arrest were admissible. The court concluded that they were.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over after a police officer noticed that the car the defendant was driving did not have a temporary registration tag displayed. During the traffic stop, the officer noticed that the defendant exhibited signs of intoxication. The defendant was placed under arrest for driving under the influence.

After the defendant’s arrest, the officer conducted an inventory search of the car, which was registered to the defendant’s sister. During the search, the officer located an eyeglasses case inside a coat pocket. Inside the eyeglasses cases was a pipe and some methamphetamine. The defendant was taken into the police station, and her blood was taken. The results came back showing that the defendant had methamphetamine in her blood. The defendant was then charged with transportation of a dangerous drug for sale, possession of a dangerous drug for sale, possession of a dangerous drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Here at The Law Office of James Novak, we believe in giving clients a sense of power over their destiny. This means helping the people of Phoenix know their legal rights following any kind of drunk driving or DUI charge. We offer expert DUI defense and legal advice, with a focus on ensuring people's civil liberties are not violated and that they receive a fair shake from the law.

We'd like to consider a few factors with regard to drug penalties for DUI arrests as there are many factors to consider in such cases.

Drugs and DUI Charges

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