In Arizona, it is easier to be charged with driving under the influence of drugs (Drug DUI), than to be charged for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Arizona has an incredibly broad statute that criminalizes drugged driving in a variety of situations where you couldn’t be charged if you were under the influence of alcohol. Arizona statute A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(1) and (A)(3) make driving under the influence of drugs a crime even beyond situations where the intoxicant is still affecting you. This can apply to illegal drugs, but to prescription drugs as well.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or other intoxicating substances, the Blischak Law Firm is here to help. We routinely handle drug DUI offenses in Phoenix, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, and throughout the state of Arizona. Well-versed in the state’s DUI laws, we are keenly aware that a conviction for DUI offenses seriously impacts your future.
As a client, you will have the benefit of our entire legal team working to beat the charges against you and restore your reputation and freedom. John Blischak has seen legal issues from all sides and brings an invaluable life of experience to your case. As a former FBI agent and former prosecutor, John knows the ins and outs of a criminal case from every side. This unique perspective allows him to anticipate the way the prosecutor will handle the case and build the best defense for your case. If you are facing a drug DUI charge, please contact our office to learn about how we can help you fight your charge.
What is a drug DUI in Arizona?
A. R.S. §28-1381(A)(1) makes it illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle “while under the influence of any drug or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substance if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.” A brief analysis of the law demonstrates how incredibly broad the law is and how easily you can be charged with and convicted of a drugged DUI.
First, you will notice that there is no threshold under which you can drive a car under the influence of drugs. In the section of the statute that deals with alcohol, you have to test over a certain amount, currently 0.05. But with drugs, any amount of drugs found to be in your system can lead to a drug DUI charge.
Second, the statute does not say “illegal drugs” or “controlled substances.” This is crucial to understanding how devastatingly broad the law is. Driving after having taken a prescription drug as prescribed and under a doctor’s supervision is criminalized, as long as it affected you in the “slightest degree.” For instance, if you take anti-depressants, sleep aids (over the counter or prescription), anti-anxiety or other medications, you could be charged with a DUI if it is shown that the drug affected your ability to drive in any way.
Taken together you can see that if any drug is in your system in any amount and your ability to drive or make decisions was impaired to the slightest degree, you can be charged with a DUI. You cannot beat the charge by pointing out that you were taking a prescribed drug as indicated by your doctor.
Sadly, the subsequent section of the statute goes even further. A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(3) makes it illegal to drive a motor vehicle “while there is any drug or its metabolite” in your body. A metabolite is a chemical that is left over after your body has broken down a drug. A metabolite may be present for weeks after the effects of the actual drugs in your system have worn off. This means that if you ingested cannabis the week prior to driving a motor vehicle, while its effects have long since worn off but the metabolite is still present in your system, you can be charged and convicted of a DUI in Arizona. This law applies to marijuana, narcotic drugs, dangerous drugs, and prescription medications taken without a valid prescription. There is no requirement that the police or prosecutor show that the drug or metabolite impaired your ability to drive in any way. To compound the situation just like the first statute there is no requirement that the metabolite exceeds any certain level. Any amount is sufficient.
Despite challenges to the way the law is written and its overly broad impact on generally legal conduct, thus far, the Arizona appellate courts have upheld the statute. It is unlikely for this the change in the short term. As a result, the law, while extremely overreaching, will likely remain untouched for some time.
The penalties for drugged DUI are similar to those for driving under the influence of alcohol. Please remember that the penalties are significant and mandatory. A first offense is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and carries with it up to 6 months of jail, up to 5 years probation, many hours of alcohol/drug testing and classes, and a fine of up to $2,500 and more. The minimums for your first offense for a Drug DUI include 10 days of jail, although your attorney may be able to get some of those days suspended (meaning you might not have to serve them) and the full amount of the fine.
Also, the punishments can go up substantially if you have a qualifying prior conviction for DUI. Unlike an alcohol DUI, a drug DUI carries a 1-year driver’s license suspension, during which time you cannot get a restricted license for getting to and from work.
Contact Our Phoenix Drug DUI Defense Attorney
If you are charged with a drug DUI in Arizona, you need to have the best and most aggressive legal representation possible to protect your rights. We have maintained a small practice, focused exclusively on criminal defense cases that allow us to give every client an individualized, effective defense. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs, contact Blischak Law Firm today to begin your defense.