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Medical Marijuana and DUI – Not in Arizona

You may have missed it if you weren’t watching closely. Late last year, just before Christmas rolled around, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that any person with a prescription for medical cannabis who was charged with DUI had the right to contest those charges. This would force law enforcement officials who issued the charges to prove that the person had an amount of THC in their system that impaired their ability to drive safely. Proving how much THC a person has in their system while they are behind the wheel is difficult as there are no immediately accurate tests available.
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In 2013, Nadir Ishak was arrested in the city of Mesa. An officer watched as Ishak’s car drifted into another lane and pulled him over. The officer noted that Ishak had bloodshot eyes. Ishak was ultimately charged with driving with cannabis in his system and driving under the influence. He was convicted of the cannabis charge, but not the DUI. According to reports, Ishak was denied the ability to present evidence to the court that he was registered through the state as a medical cannabis patient.

In the opinion of the court, Judge Diane M. Johnsen stated that having any amount of cannabis in the system does not preclude a person from driving safely. Driving abilities are not automatically impaired. The opinion also states that there is no wording in the law that says when a person with cannabis in their system is considered impaired. Therefore, it is reasonable that those charged with DUI because of having cannabis in their system be permitted to challenge the charge.

The appeals court ruled that a person charged with DUI due to cannabis can present evidence that they were not impaired through cross examination. The defendant may question the arresting officer and forensic scientists called to testify by the state. How this ruling will affect laws or the workings of other courts across the country remains to be seen.

As it stands, people who a police officer believes to be impaired due to having THC in their system and driving in a way that is not safe may be charged with driving under the influence. If these people attempt to contest their charges, they may, but without a ruling such as this in their own state, the contesting of those charges may be difficult. For now. Thanks to the ruling in Arizona, that may change in the near future.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Orlando, it is important to understand that a conviction could have lifelong consequences. While a first instinct may be to plead guilty and accept your fate, doing so could cost you greatly. It is in your best interest to consult an attorney experienced in DUI law. Reach out to our team for a free case evaluation and learn about your legal options. We are here to help you defend yourself against your charges.

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