Researchers Developing Marijuana Detecting Breathalyzer
As Arizona and other states have decriminalized the possession and use of marijuana, at least three research companies say they have developed or are in the process of creating a handheld machine that can detect THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, during a traffic stop.
A Phoenix-based company, ElectraTect Inc., is currently developing with an out-of-state firm a device for breath testing for marijuana. Hound Labs based in Oakland, Calif., and Cannabix Technologies of Vancouver, British Columbia, are also developing these machines that are intended to be easy to use and are not invasive.
These devices are being designed to detect marijuana use within a three-hour timeframe when marijuana impairment is at its most obvious.
THC is most often measured in a reading similar to the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) result. Without the new devices, impairment from marijuana is determined by testing blood and urine. The THC molecule, unlike the ethanol molecule in alcohol, is more difficult to isolate and can be detected days after using marijuana.
Drug recognition expertsAs a marijuana breathalyzer grows closer to reality, greater Phoenix and other Arizona jurisdictions rely on traffic officers who are trained as drug recognition experts (DRE).
To become a DRE rated officer, the person must have three years of law enforcement training and complete the training program consisting of 88 hours of instruction in three phases.
Upon graduation, they must perform at least 12 test drug evaluations and then pass a comprehensive examination. Lastly, DRE officers must be recertified every two years.
Marijuana DUI conviction consequences in ArizonaDriving while under the influence of THC is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious of the misdemeanor class.
A marijuana DUI conviction means expensive fines and a criminal record that will follow you and can harm your chances for a job and even a career for licensed professionals. Background checks will reveal your conviction whether by verdict or a plea agreement, and can be entered into the state’s searchable records system.
Property renters, credit scoring agencies, and company human resource departments can easily access this information. Arizona, however, in 2017 eliminated questions about an applicant’s criminal record for state jobs.
Arizona sets its punishments for marijuana DUI depending on if it is a first, second, or third offense, accompanied by increasing penalties.
Misdemeanor first offense includes:
- At least 10 days in county jail with 9 days suspended upon completion of drug screening and counseling
- Fines reaching as much as $1,500
- 90 day license suspension.
- A term of probation up to 5 years
Felony marijuana DUI consequencesAn aggravated felony conviction is charged with severely impaired driving. While having a suspended license, driving the wrong way, driving without a court ordered interlock, or for driving with a child in the car under the age of 15. A felony conviction includes longer sentences, larger fines, and a number of restrictions.
A person who is a first-time aggravated DUI involving marijuana defendant, if convicted, will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of four months in state prison, not county jail. The maximum prison time for a Class 4 felony is 3.75 years. After release, the court may order a lengthy term of probation for up to 10 years.
In addition to imprisonment, the convicted felon can be ordered by the court to submit to substance abuse screening, and classes. Fines and surcharges for a Class 4 felony can total $4,675.50.
A felony marijuana DUI conviction means you will be stripped of the constitutional right to have and possess a firearm, the right to vote in elections, hold public office, or join the military. It will become problematic to hold or keep a job or to rent a place to live. However, a new law, Arizona Revised Statute §13-907, effective Jan. 1, 2023, allows a person convicted of a felony DUI to become eligible to have the case history removed from the public record after a period of waiting.
Those who hold professional licenses, such as teachers and real estate agents and many others, will lose their licenses; but in some situations, they may qualify for Arizona’s new Second Chance law for non-dangerous Class 4 and Class 6 felonies.
Defenses for a marijuana impaired DUI in ArizonaTo earn a marijuana DUI conviction, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle while impaired. But people and devices are not infallible. Driving after consuming marijuana is not proof of impairment without strong medical evidence.
Police officers who did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop will result in dismissing the marijuana impairment charge. Every case is unique, so other defenses may be available.
In iron-clad prosecution cases, a plea agreement may be possible depending upon the facts of the case.
Protecting your legal rightsThe troubling thing is that using marijuana in the evening and driving the next morning can lead to an impairment charge. As machine testing the level of marijuana is coming, there may be issues with the device or its results that can be used in your defense.
A skilled criminal defense attorney is necessary since the legalization of marijuana in Arizona is new legal territory, and Arizona medical licensed marijuana patients are not exempt from the law.
The best approach to win your case is to have an accomplished criminal defense attorney such as myself standing by you at the earliest possible time following the arrest.
Aaron M. Black Law for marijuana DUI defense in PhoenixI know that good people can make a mistake and find themselves in trouble with the law and that is why I fight hard for my clients. I have an extensive record of aggressively defending marijuana DUI charges, always with the goal of winning a dismissal of the charges by attacking the state’s evidence and procedures and developing evidence favoring my clients.
I provide individual legal services, so you will always talk to me directly, never to an assistant.
Begin your defense by calling me at 480-729-1683, and I will respond promptly unless I am in court or at trial. Or use my easy contact form on my website. I defend marijuana DUI charges in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and throughout Arizona, including Maricopa, Pinal, Yavapai, and Coconino County Superior Courts.
About the Author
Aaron Black is the founder and sole attorney of the Law Office of Aaron Black. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, his DUI and criminal defense law firm provides legal services to people who have received felony or misdemeanor charges from the state.Aaron has developed a strong interest in defending people who have been arrested and received criminal charges for driving under the influence. With his professionalism and knowledge of Arizona DUI and criminal law, he has acted as a check and balance on the police, prosecution and courts and has protected a great number of his clients from excessive and unfair sentencing.
Along with DUI defense, Aaron handles a range of other criminal defense matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes, and white-collar crime cases.
After graduating college in 2003 from the University of Arizona, Aaron decided to pursue a law degree. He followed a family long tradition and went to the University of South Dakota School of Law where he pursued his goal of becoming a criminal defense lawyer.
After passing the Arizona and South Dakota bar exams, Aaron joined the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender where he defended hundreds of people charged with serious criminal offenses. His work as a public defender helped him sharpen his litigation skills and gave him a unique insight into the Arizona criminal justice system.
Over the course of his 15-year legal career, Aaron has spent a considerable amount of time in both Arizona justice, municipal, state and federal courts. He has argued over 50 jury trials, tried over 100 bench trials and has become one of the highest-rated criminal and DUI defense attorneys in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. He has received a 10/10 rating from the legal directory Avvo because of his legal background and successful case record. Since 2014, he has received the Super Lawyer rating for his work as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.
You can review Aaron’s Attorney Bio page for more information about his background, education and experience as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.