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PHOENIX -- A medical-marijuana card is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for motorists found with active components of the drug in their system, no matter how little, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The judges rejected arguments by the attorney for Travis Darrah that the positive drug test, by itself, cannot be used to convict him of driving under the influence of drugs. The judges said prosecutors need not prove actual impairment.
Tuesday's ruling is unlikely to be the last word. Attorney John Tatz said he is weighing seeking Supreme Court review, saying the decision is in direct contradiction to the 2010 voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. That's also the assessment of Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project which crafted the law.
Darrah, who has a state-issued card allowing him to obtain and use marijuana, was arrested by Mesa police in 2011. He was charged with two separate counts of driving under the influence of drugs.
One makes it illegal to drive while impaired. The other says a person cannot operate a motor vehicle while there is any illegal drug or its metabolite in his or her body. That was based on a blood test that showed evidence of an active component of marijuana
Tatz asked the second count to be dismissed.
He acknowledged that the 2010 law does not make it legal for a medical marijuana cardholder to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of the drug. But Tatz pointed out the law also says medical marijuana users cannot be considered under the influence solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of the marijuana "that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.'' And he said there was no evidence presented that Darrah was not impaired.
The judge refused to drop the charge and refused to let jurors hear that
Darrah is a medical marijuana users. Jurors then found Darrah innocent of the impairment charge but, based solely on the blood test, guilty of the second charge.
Appellate Judge Michael Brown, writing for the court, said he does not read the law -- and the exemption -- as broadly as Tatz.
"If Arizona voters had intended to completely bar the state form prosecuting authorized marijuana users under (this section of the law), they could have easily done so by using specific language to that effect,'' Brown wrote.
Lindsey said all that ignores the intent of the law: allow patients to use the drug and not be kept from driving simply because there was something left in their bodies that shows up in a blood test.
The key, he said, is impairment -- or the lack thereof.
"You could have a small amount of active metabolite in the system and not be impaired,'' he said, much as someone using a prescription painkiller would not be breaking the law if the concentration was too low to cause impairment. And Lindsey said the 2010 law was crafted to include the impairment requirement because of how long marijuana remains in the system.
Tatz said there is precedent for that argument.
He said the parallel charge for alcohol to the one his client was convicted is operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08.
If the blood test returns a number below that, that charge is dismissed. But the motorist still can be charged with driving while impaired if there is other evidence.
In this case, Tatz said, there is no presumptive number in Arizona law for how much marijuana someone can have in the blood. So that, he said, leaves prosecutors only the option of charging Darrah with driving while impaired -- a charge for which his client was found innocent by a jury.
Brown also said this case is different than one where the Arizona Supreme Court earlier this year voided driving while intoxicated charges against another medical marijuana user.
In that case, though, the justices pointed out that what was found in that driver's blood was an inactive metabolite of the drug which can remain long after the effects had worn off.
A medical marijuana card is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for motorists found with active components of the drug in their system, no matter how little, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The mother of Brandon Mendoza, the Mesa police Sergeant who was hit and killed by a wrong-way driver in May, has penned an emotional letter to the President on immigration.
Arizona's highway patrol officers, sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officers arrested nearly 400 people on suspicion of driving under the influence over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
An early morning accident on Monday left a beloved Mesa Police Department officer dead and a community in mourning.
WASHINGTON — Your car might see a deadly crash coming even if you don't, the government says, indicating it will require automakers to equip new vehicles with technology that lets cars warn each other if they're plunging toward peril.
‘Tis the season! Over the next few weeks, schedules are filled with shopping, holiday parties, relatives, financial pressures, obligations, and plenty of food and spirits. Socializing during the holidays can be stressful and challenging, especially if your friends and family are not as health-conscious as you. The abundance of holiday treats and homemade goodies can be hard to resist. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to avoid holiday weight gain, manage your blood sugars, stay healthy, happy and fit, and enjoy celebrating the holidays.
When I saw the Nov. 7 KPNX Channel 12 news story headlines, “Cop cover up? Did Chandler police officers tamper with evidence after a Mesa SWAT sergeant’s DUI?” I thought, not another dirty cop!
A Mesa police motorcycle officer has been released from the hospital after he was hit by an impaired, wrong-way driver, said authorities.
Tempe police confirm to ABC15 an Arizona State University student is hospitalized after members of two fraternities got into a fight over the holiday weekend.
Arizona's high court has given those charged with drunk driving a new tool to try to defeat charges against them.
In the July 11th opinion piece, "Rosenstein: Should the legal BAC level be .05?", Craig Rosenstein wrote that most people only begin to be impaired to operate a motor vehicle at a BAC level of .08 and that there are no peer-reviewed studies supporting that impairment begins at lower levels. As the National Transportation Safety Board thoroughly laid out in our recent report, those statements are factually inaccurate.
Last month, the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that all 50 States adopt a cutoff of .05 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) as the maximum percentage of blood alcohol that a person could have in their system and legally drive.
Arizona's statewide DUI enforcement efforts resulted in 367 DUI arrests during the recent holiday. More than 870 officers participated across the state, including the East Valley.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members officials were recently informed that their recognition as a fraternity chapter at Arizona State University has been revoked.
An Arizona State University student who passed out from drinking tequila was left in wheelchair in a hospital lobby with a Post-it note saying he took part in a drinking competition.
A car crashing into an Ahwatukee Foothills backyard is the last straw for a neighborhood girl.
Writer-director Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" is an incredibly stylish genre exercise set in the world of mobsters, junkies and lowlifes, but it's also trying incredibly hard to be About Something.
The holiday season is upon us. Over the next few weeks, schedules will be filled with shopping, holiday parties, relatives, plenty of food and spirits and obligations. Socializing during the holidays can be stressful and challenging for some people, especially if your friends and family are not as health-conscious as you. The abundance of holiday treats and homemade goodies can be hard to resist. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to avoid holiday weight gain.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Devers was heralded as an outstanding role model in his community, a devout Mormon, who stood up to the Obama administration, and was a tough sheriff more than willing and able to enforce all the laws of the land. Well, it turns he did not enforce the laws on himself.
PHOENIX — Arizona law enforcement officers say they arrested nearly 400 people statewide on suspicion of driving while intoxicated during the first half of the Labor Day weekend.
Water is one of the most important nutrients and often overlooked for detoxification, losing body fat, and optimal health. Your body is approximately 70 percent water, your brain tissue approximately 75 percent water, and your blood is 83 percent water.
A man convicted of child molestation two years ago and placed on lifetime probation, is accused of trying to hold an 11-year-old boy against his will in the restroom of a Red Robin Restaurant on Monday.
Focusing on the East Valley, law enforcement officers who cracked down on impaired drivers during the 4th of July holiday weekend saw a drop in overall arrests for the first time since 2009. But there was an increase in underage drinking arrests.
Recently, three competitive bicyclists training in the far East Valley were run into and critically injured by a driver who was reportedly adjusting her GPS device. As a bicycling advocate, I’m very upset by this. But, this story and situation is much larger than cycling. It’s about attitudes and behavior behind the wheel.