Arizona state law makes it illegal to drive with any “metabolite” of a drug like marijuana in the person’s system. Blood tests detect two important chemical compounds found in the body after marijuana use. The first of the two chemical compounds creates the impaired stated or “high” and can last up to a few hours. The other inactive chemical compound is created as the body neutralizes THC. It has no intoxicating effect and can stay in a person’s system for more than a month.
This creates the problem that a person can be convicted of a DUI even if they are no longer stoned, but are found with the latter of the two chemical compounds in their system. Such was the case in Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan.
The case stems from a 2010 traffic stop in Maricopa County where the defendant’s DUI charges were eventually dismissed in the lower court after it was determined that, at the time of the defendant’s arrest, he was not intoxicated even though the inactive chemical compound was detected in his system. The Arizona Appellate Court recently disagreed and overturned the lower court’s ruling stating, “We determined that the legislative ban extends to all substances, whether capable of causing impairment or not.”
The defendant’s attorney has raised the issue of decriminalization of marijuana in other states, including neighboring Colorado, and the possibility that a person can legally smoke marijuana in one of these states, travel to Arizona weeks later, and still be found guilty of DUI.
He plans on filing an appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court. I hope they review the case and I hope he succeeds.
Sound ridiculous? It is. Imagine getting convicted of a DUI four weeks after your last drop of beer.