Driving While High Laws in Tempe, AZ & Marijuana DUI Explained | Lajolla.com

Understanding Marijuana DUI in Tempe, Arizona

This post is part of our Best Dispensaries in Arizona series, brought to you by Cannabist Tempe and SWC Arizona

From easing pain to relieving anxiety, cannabis offers a world of benefits to responsible users. Advantages like these are a big part of the reason adult marijuana use was legalized in Arizona in 2020. But while cannabis can do a lot of good and is legal to use in the Grand Canyon State, it’s still a substance that can have side effects that put safety at risk. 

Depending on the situation, cannabis can impair coordination, slow reaction times, weaken decision-making abilities, manipulate perception, and more. Just as with alcohol use, these effects can make driving dangerous. That’s why many Tempe residents wonder: Can you get a DUI from weed use in Arizona? 

Read on to learn about the consequences of driving high in Tempe and why it’s critical to exercise caution before getting behind the wheel if you’ve been using cannabis in Arizona. 

Is Driving High Considered a DUI in Arizona?

Is marijuana legal in Arizona? Yes, for adults 21 years or older. However, it’s still illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. Doing so could result in a DUI charge, similar to when people drive drunk. When it comes to a marijuana DUI, Arizona statute ARS 28-1381 says that a person can be charged if they are impaired while driving and have cannabis in their system.

This type of DUI weed charge can get a little confusing, however, since marijuana metabolites can show up in a person’s system weeks after the substance was used. To help shed more light on the subject, here are some answers to some common questions residents have about driving high in Tempe and other Arizona cities. 

What are the Signs of Marijuana DUI Impairment?

Police officers may charge a person with a marijuana DUI in Arizona if they exhibit signs of impairment while driving. While there is not an established list of criteria for proving impairment, law enforcement typically look for erratic driving behavior—such as swerving in and out of lanes, stopping without cause, unusual acceleration or deceleration, slow response times, abrupt turns, and inconsistent signaling. 

If an officer makes a traffic stop based on those signs, they might suspect cannabis impairment if the driver fails to satisfy field sobriety tests, has red eyes, exhibits poor concentration or response time, or admits to using marijuana. Other indicators of driving while high may include the presence of cannabis paraphernalia in plain sight or a marijuana odor. 

What Can Lead to a Weed DUI Conviction in Tempe?

There must be significant evidence for a marijuana DUI conviction to occur. Often this evidence will include a combination of police reports and lab tests that show proof the driver had marijuana in their system. Other evidence that may support a conviction include surveillance video and witness statements. 

Which Tests Can Prove Cannabis DUI?

Initially, law enforcement may subject a driver to field sobriety tests at the time of the traffic stop. These tests measure cognitive skills, eye movement, and other important coordination abilities—such as being able to stand on one leg, walk and turn, or walk in a straight line. 

Although there is no breathalyzer-style test for marijuana use, officers may also collect blood or urine samples to chemically test for the presence of THC. 

Are Cannabis DUI Chemical Tests Reliable?

Chemical tests aren’t completely reliable to prove a cannabis DUI. These tests may show that a person consumed marijuana, but since THC can remain in one’s system for several weeks the results won’t necessarily prove that the individual was high while driving. 

In most cases, tests that come up positive for THC are used to substantiate other evidence that supports a DUI charge. For example, test results can strengthen the case for a weed DUI conviction if the police have evidence that the individual was driving impaired—such as by failing field sobriety tests. 

Can You Refuse a Chemical Test for DUI in Tempe, AZ?

Yes, you can technically refuse to take a chemical test for a cannabis DUI. However, refusal can have consequences. For example, you’ll risk having your driver’s license immediately suspended. The court may also view a refusal as supporting evidence of guilt. 

Types of Cannabis DUI in Arizona

Driving high in Tempe can result in two types of marijuana DUI. 

An “Impaired to the Slightest Degree” DUI means that an individual could be convicted of a marijuana DUI if they demonstrated any level of impairment while driving—no matter how much of a substance was in their system. This can lead to a conviction if the prosecutor can show that an individual was under the influence of marijuana. 

A “Drug DUI” simply means that a driver tested positive for marijuana use but was not necessarily driving with signs of impairment. These charges tend to be easier to get dismissed because it will be harder to show that the driver was under the influence of cannabis at the time of the incident. 

Both types of cannabis DUI are typically treated as a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Arizona. 

Penalties for Marijuana DUI Charges in Arizona

The consequences for a marijuana DUI conviction in Arizona will depend on the nature of the offense and if a previous conviction is on the person’s record. Here’s a look at how each offense is generally treated under the law. 

First Conviction

A cannabis DUI first offense in Arizona can result in jail time between 10 days and six months. Jail time for first-time convictions can often be negotiated down, however, if the defendant agrees to complete classes and drug/alcohol assessments. 

Convicted individuals can also receive a 90-day driver’s license suspension. Eight MVD points will also be added to the person’s license, which prompts mandatory completion of traffic school. In select cases, an ignition interlock device may need to be installed in the person’s vehicle. 

A marijuana DUI conviction can result in a minimum fine of $1,250 with additional court costs required. Receiving a DUI will also require three years of SR-22 insurance to drive, which comes with significantly higher premiums. 

Second Conviction

Potential penalties for a second DUI conviction within seven years are more severe. Possible jail time may fall between 90 days and six months. The minimum length may be reduced if work release or home detention is authorized by the court. Individuals may also be ordered to complete 30 hours of community service. 

Convicted drivers will typically have their driver’s license revoked for one year with Eight MVD points added on. Once they are eligible to drive, an ignition interlock device may need to be installed in the vehicle. 

The fine for a second DUI conviction within seven years is $3,000 plus court fees. SR-22 insurance policy requirements are the same as a first-time conviction. 

Aggravated DUI Charges

An aggravated DUI charge can occur if an individual has had two or more DUI convictions in the past 7 years. 

Convicted drivers will face a mandatory minimum of 4 months in prison up to 2 years, have their license revoked for three years, and have to pay a fine of at least $4,000. In most cases, individuals will have to have an ignition interlock device installed in their car and pay for SR-22 insurance for three years. 

Substance abuse screening, treatment, and counseling, as well as community service, will also likely be required by the court. 

Can Cannabis Impact Your Driving Ability the Same Way as Alcohol?

Both driving drunk and driving high can lead to behaviors that are dangerous on the road and put lives at risk. However, being under the influence of alcohol tends to cause fast and risky driving. By contrast, being under the influence of marijuana typically causes slower and overly cautious driving. 

How to Avoid a Marijuana DUI in Arizona?

The best way to avoid a marijuana DUI in Arizona is to not consume any cannabis product before driving. Make sure you know how you respond to cannabis so that you have enough time to sober up before getting behind the wheel. 

It’s also a good idea to avoid crossing state borders, as being an out-of-state driver may complicate charges. Arizona is a zero-tolerance state, so the definition of impaired driving may be different than where you’re used to driving. 

When you do use cannabis, always purchase from reputable dispensaries with high-quality, certified products. These products are tested and labeled for strength, so you’ll face a lower risk of accidentally consuming too much and driving while impaired. Below are some of the best dispensaries near Tempe, Arizona that sell reliable cannabis products. 

Best Dispensaries in Tempe, AZ

Cannabist is one of the most popular dispensaries in Tempe, AZ. These shops were born in Arizona, and therefore, are closely familiar with marijuana laws in the state. As such, their products—such as flower, edibles, wax weed, oil, and other consumables—are incredibly reliable in terms of strength, quality, and efficacy. 

The expert staff at Cannabist in Tempe personalizes the shopping experience and will introduce you to the best products for your needs at competitive prices—as well as with attractive discounts for repeat customers. They also sell locally-grown cannabis, allowing customers to support Arizona producers.  

Other top-rated Tempe dispensaries include Harvest House of Cannabis, ZenLeaf, Giving Tree, and CuraLeaf. Each of these retailers provides an ample selection of trusted cannabis products paired with guided service. 

Final Thoughts

Is driving high considered DUI in Arizona? Yes. But if you’re responsible and stay educated on cannabis, using marijuana can still be a safe and enjoyable experience. If you ever have questions or concerns about using cannabis—don’t hesitate to consult a trusted budtender, such as those at Cannabist. These experts can give you tips on the best products that can help address specific ailments and offer insight into cannabis strength so you can avoid consuming too much. 

And if you do consume cannabis and need to get somewhere, there are options to get you where you need to go without putting you at legal risk. Never get behind the wheel while high and always ask a sober friend—or use a trusted rideshare service—so you can travel with peace of mind.

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