DUI and Drugs (Illegal and Legal)
"I wasn't drunk, but I did smoke some marijuana earlier in the day. I felt absolutely fine but the cop charged with me DUI anyway. How can I be DUI if I wasn't impaired?"
Yes, it can happen. This is possible because Arizona law (A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(3) prohibits driving or being in "physical control" of a vehicle while there is any drug or its metabolite (as defined in A.R.S. 13-3401) in a person's body. Metabolites are what remains after the body uses up the drug. The best example I can give is after you burn wood in a fire, ashes remain. Drugs are much the same way. The body burns them. The metabolites are left behind. Metabolites can remain in the body well past the time a drug is actually active -- from hours up to days and even weeks, depending upon the drug.
What Are The Consequences Of A Drug Related DUI?
The consequences of being convicted of driving with drugs or their metabolites in your body are more serious then the consequences of a standard DUI. This is because MVD may revoke a defendant's driving privilege for a minimum of one full year for any DUI conviction which is drug related.
If you are convicted of A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(3) you will be subject to a one year license revocation.
Often times, a prosecuting agency will offer a plea to simple DUI (driving with while impaired to the slightest degree - A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(1)) with the idea that by pleading to the simple DUI statute instead of the per se drug statute, your driving privilege will not be revoked. Unfortunately, pleading to being impaired by drugs under A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(1) may still result in a one year revocation.
The bottom line is that you do not have to be convicted under the drug statute to have your license revoked for one year. If the court reports to MVD that the DUI was the result of drug impairment, your license may still be revoked for a minimum of one year. In addition to the license revocation, other penalties and consequences may include:
- Mandatory jail time
- Mandatory fines
- Administrative courts costs,
- Jail fees,
- Substance abuse and counseling and associated fees
- Increased car insurance rates
- A drug related criminal record.
Another question I am often asked is whether one can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs if the drugs were prescribed by a physician? Because the drugs are prescribed, you have a defense to the per se drug statute - A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(3).
However, even if the drugs are prescribed, if your ability to drive has been impaired, even to the slightest degree, you can be still be arrested and convicted of DUI in violation of A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(1) . Just as the legality of alcohol and alcohol consumption is not a defense to DUI, the legality of consuming a prescription drug is also not a defense. You may be authorized to take the drug, but you cannot operate a motor vehicle if it impairs your ability to drive. Furthermore, if the court lists prescription drugs as the cause of impairment, your license may be revoked for a minimum of one full year.