If You Smoked Marijuana Three Days Ago, Can You Be Guilty of DUI Today?

The answer is yes, according to a recent decision from the Arizona Appellate Court.

Arizona’s DUI statute provides that a person can be found guilty for DUI if there is any drug or its metabolite in the person’s body while driving. In State v. Hon. Harris Shilgevorkyan, the prohibited substance was Carboxy-THC. In testing to see if someone has recently ingested marijuana, there are two substances that can be tested for: Hydroxy-THC and Carboxy-THC. Carboxy-THC is a product of the body’s metabolism of THC and is detectable for a longer period of time than Hydroxy-THC.

The defendant argued that it would be impossible to find him guilty because Hydroxy-THC is the metabolite of marijuana and it was not found in his test. The parties argued over the exact meaning of the term “its metabolite” in the statute. In a tactic reminiscent of President Clinton’s famous contention (that his answer depended on what the meaning of “is” is), the defendant contended that “its” is singular and there is one and only one metabolite of marijuana (Hydroxy-THC) which was not found in his test. The state, on the other hand, contended that “its” is plural and can encompass many metabolites.

The Court of Appeals ruled for the state and noted that the statute must be interpreted broadly to appropriately effectuate legislative intent. Therefore, the language of the statute prohibiting driving with a proscribed drug or its metabolite includes the metabolite Carboxy-THC.

This decision is troubling in many respects.

  • First, the court reiterated that the statute created a flat ban on driving with any proscribed substance in the body, whether capable of causing impairment or not, giving the impression that impairment doesn’t matter in Arizona.
  • Second, some of these drugs stay in the body for a long time. Drivers are at risk of being charged with a DUI or being liable for an accident even if they used the drugs several days or weeks ago and are not impaired at all.
  • Third, the list of drugs is very broad and includes many different substances. For instance, testosterone is on the list. Can you be found guilty of DUI or be liable for an accident for having testosterone or its metabolite in your blood or urine?

The implications of this ruling for car accidents and DUIs are huge. Stay tuned. And if you are injured in an auto accident by a person charged with DUI, be sure to contact an Arizona personal injury lawyer immediately.

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