By John Clark
An Arizona court has upheld a decision that allows the state to prosecute Arizona drivers for driving under the influence of marijuana even if there is no evidence that they have been smoking pot, according to a report from the Arizona Republic.
Sources say the ruling, which was issued by the state’s Court of Appeals, addressed a complicated issue relating to the chemical compounds in marijuana.
When drivers are subjected to blood and urine tests after an arrest, two different pieces of evidence related to marijuana use emerge.
The first chemical compound provides evidence that the driver is actually impaired, while the other chemical compound is something that remains in a smoker’s system for weeks after he or she has smoked marijuana, but it doesn’t impair the average person’s driving ability.
Common sense would suggest that police officers should only use the first compound as evidence of intoxicated driving, but to the dismay of some state DUI attorneys, the Arizona court decided otherwise.
According to sources, the court claimed that both compounds apply to drivers under Arizona DUI laws. So if drivers have any evidence of marijuana in their system, they can be arrested for a DUI, even if they are in a perfectly suitable driving condition.
The court said the state’s legislature created the state’s DUI laws to “protect public safety,” so the court claimed it had a responsibility to interpret the statute “broadly,” and thus include both inactive and active chemical compounds found in marijuana.
The case initially arose from a traffic stop in Maricopa County that took place in 2010. During that incident, the arrested driver’s blood test only showed trace amounts of the chemical compound that is usually found well after marijuana is inhaled, according to sources.
According to one expert who testified in the case, the particular compound found in the driver’s blood doesn’t impair driving skills, and it may remain in the bloodstream for up to four weeks.
The driver’s DUI attorney said that only the chemical compound that impairs drivers’ ability to safely navigate roads is illegal, but the appellate court disagreed with this argument.
Despite the court’s decision, the original driver’s attorney is planning to file an appeal. He believes that the testing issue should be resolved because several surrounding states have legalized marijuana.
His concern is that residents of Washington and Colorado, where marijuana will soon be legal, will have to avoid driving through Arizona in order to avoid the state’s bizarre laws, which could have a negative impact on the state’s economy.