Articles Posted in Marijuana

Last month, an Arizona court of appeals reversed a lower court’s decision not to expunge a marijuana conviction from a defendant’s record. The defendant had asked for the conviction to be stricken from his record, but the trial court originally denied the defendant’s request. Looking more closely at the case, however, the court of appeals reversed this decision and directed the lower court to remove the conviction from the defendant’s record.

Facts of the Case

In 2013, the defendant in this case and one of his acquaintances were driving one night when a police officer stopped them and began questioning them about where they were headed. Upon further investigation, the officer discovered marijuana in the car, and he learned that the defendant was going to California to buy more marijuana. The officer arrested both the defendant and his acquaintance.

The defendant was charged and convicted of conspiracy to transport marijuana for sale, and he finished the terms of his parole in 2018. In 2022, the defendant filed a petition to expunge, or remove, the conviction from his record. The trial court denied that petition and the defendant promptly appealed.

Continue reading

In a recent case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant asked for his 2017 plea deal to be vacated and reconsidered. Five years ago, the defendant pled guilty to several crimes and was sentenced with a marijuana conviction on his record. Given the 2020 legalization of recreational marijuana in Arizona, the defendant argued that his original sentence should be reconsidered. Looking at the facts of the case, the higher court ultimately agreed with the defendant and ended up sending his case back to the lower court so that it could recalculate the defendant’s sentence.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant pled guilty in 2017 to two counts of sex trafficking. When the defendant and the State were negotiating his plea deal, the defendant admitted that he had seven previous felony convictions on his record – one of these offenses was possession of marijuana in 2004. Because of the combination of these previous convictions and the 2017 convictions, the defendant was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In 2020, however, Arizona voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. As part of that new law, adults that had been previously convicted of marijuana use could be eligible to have those convictions removed from their records. Here, the defendant filed a petition before the court after this 2020 law passed, arguing that his 2004 marijuana conviction should be vacated. If the 2004 conviction were removed, he argued, the defendant’s overall sentence would be less than the 12 years he received.

Continue reading

In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant successfully appealed his convictions following a car accident at least partially caused by his speeding. The defendant was originally charged with and convicted of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and criminal damage. Because of his appeal and the facts surrounding the accident, the higher court vacated the trial court’s original decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving between seventy and ninety-five miles per hour in a forty-five miles per hour zone. While going at this speed, the defendant struck another car, causing the two passengers of that second car to be ejected from the vehicle. The second car’s driver was a man and the passenger was his seven-month-old son. Neither passenger was wearing a seatbelt, and the father had THC in his system at the time of the crash. Tragically, the seven-month-old son died as a result of the crash.

The father pled guilty to driving under the influence and endangerment after the crash. The main defense raised by the defendant was that he alone was not responsible for the injuries – it was true, said the defendant, that he was speeding, but the father was also under the influence and without a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Thus, according to the defendant, he could not take all of the blame.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

In January, several Arizona dispensaries began selling marijuana to legal adults who do not have a medical marijuana card. The move came after voters approved Arizona marijuana sales. Motorists must understand that despite the legalization of recreational marijuana, they may still be arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI. Notwithstanding the presumed increase of Arizonans consuming marijuana, the State reports a decrease in the overall number of drug-related DUI arrests. However, the director of Arizona’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety stated that the numbers might be slightly misleading because the data is incomplete.

In Arizona, the State can charge and prosecute individuals for DUI drugs under two main statutes, ARS §28-1381(A)(1) and ARS §28-1381(A)(3). Under the first statute, it is illegal for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any alcohol, drug or inhalant. A charge under this statute may occur when the motorist is impaired to the “slightest degree.” The second statute provides that it is illegal for one to drive a motorized vehicle under the influence of any drug or its metabolite. This statute encompasses substances such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and prescription medications being used illegally. Under the statute, a person does not need to exhibit actual impairment; instead, they may be guilty by solely having the drug or its metabolite in their system.

Although marijuana and its THC component are legal to use recreationally, issues may arise if the person exhibits even slight impairment. Arizonans may not need to present a medical marijuana card to defend themselves against certain DUI charges, but they may still face impairment charges. Many charges stemming from marijuana DUIs may hinge on whether someone is too impaired or high to drive. Issues often arise because, unlike alcohol, marijuana requires a blood test. However, where alcohol tends to metabolize quickly and goes away within a matter of hours, marijuana and its accompanying THC may remain in one’s system for days after the effects have dissipated.

Over the past decade, there has been a shift in society’s attitude towards marijuana. As a result, many states have legalized medical marijuana, decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, and even legalized recreational use of marijuana. According to a recent news report, a 2020 ballot initiative in Arizona seeks to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Often, this raises questions about how Arizona DUI law will be impacted.

Under the new ballot initiative, recreational marijuana would be legalized for adults over the age of 21. The law would regulate where cannabis could be smoked, and also continues to make it illegal to operate a vehicle, boat, or airplane while “impaired even to the slightest degree.”

How the criminal justice system answers the question of when someone is “impaired” by marijuana is going to be critical to the fair enforcement of the state’s DUI laws. Even for a casual smoker, marijuana can stay in their system for weeks after use. However, any mind-altering effects of the drug wear off after just a few hours. Thus, it is possible that someone could smoke marijuana at night, get up to go to work, get pulled over on the way for an unrelated traffic offense, and be arrested for DUI. Certainly, this is not the intent of lawmakers who hoped to allow the responsible use of marijuana and only criminalize those who drive while actually impaired.

In the state of Arizona, it is illegal to use or possess marijuana, sell or distribute marijuana, produce marijuana, and transport marijuana. It’s also illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. The state has stiff penalties against people who violate marijuana DUI laws, which is why having a Phoenix, AZ defense attorney is crucial.

We’d like to consider some of the financial penalties associated with marijuana DUI charges so you understand the difficulties ahead. It will reinforce the importance of having a skilled lawyer by your side to help reduce or drop the charges against you.

Arizona Laws on Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

There is currently a nationwide discussion about the legality of marijuana. While the federal government continues to debate whether or not marijuana is legal, the state of Arizona has very strict laws regarding purchase, possession, and use of the substance. Only people with medical marijuana card can obtain small amounts of marijuana from approved dispensaries.

While some people may legally obtain and use marijuana in the state, Arizona still does not have a proper means of testing for pot in a driver’s system. The entire country is struggling with this issue. Marijuana DUI law is still evolving given the country’s changing attitudes toward marijuana. With that in mind, our legal office serving the Phoenix, AZ area would like to consider some of the current issues related to field sobriety tests to detect marijuana use.

About Field Sobriety Tests

Here at The Law Office of James Novak, we take all legal matters seriously. This includes current laws on the books as well as new laws that are being proposed. Both can have an affect on DUI defense and legal strategies, whether the charge involves alcohol or other controlled substances.

For example, a ballot initiative involving recreational marijuana use may have a major impact on motorists who are pulled over with THC in their system. Let’s look a the basics of the new law and then see how it can impact DUI cases.

Background on the Recreational Marijuana Use Ballot Measure

While marijuana is also a controlled substance and it's illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, the laws related to marijuana DUI will differ from traditional drunk driving laws. There is a matter of use of an illicit substance to consider on top of potential possession as well as driving while under the influence of this controlled substance.

At The Law Office of James Novak, we are committed to helping the people of Phoenix get a fair shake from the law. We offer drunk driving and drug DUI defense, and want to make sure the system is fair rather than stacked against the people. There are many factors to consider when it comes to marijuana penalties during a DUI arrest. Let's cover some of the basics so you understand how serious these cases can be.

Marijuana Possession Penalties

Contact Information