Changes in DUI Laws Important to Consider as Proposition 207 Shifts the Legal Landscape in Arizona

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.

Sentencing Under Proposition 207 Remains the Same

New Arizona DUI laws do not affect the severity of defendants’ sentences in the State. For example, a Phoenix DUI conviction carries up to ten days in jail and five years of probation. Speaking with a criminal defense attorney is critical for those charged with a marijuana DUI in Arizona – it is important to investigate all possible defenses to make sure officers are not making arrests without just cause.

Have You Been Charged with Marijuana Possession in Arizona?

If you or a loved one have been arrested for marijuana charges in Arizona, there are defenses that might be available to help fight your case. Because of recent changes to marijuana DUI laws in Arizona, it will be extremely helpful to have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can walk you through your options and dedicate himself to advocating on your behalf. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we have defended and litigated criminal cases of all sizes, and we are eager to learn how we can help you make sure your voice is heard. To learn more or to schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499.

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