What Does Biden’s Marijuana Reform Mean for DUIs?
Everything You Need To Know About President Biden’s Marijuana Reform Policy
With recent legislation to fight inflation, forgive student loans, and decriminalize marijuana, many people can benefit from President Joe Biden’s latest works. But there can also be confusion about how all of this new legislation applies. Not everyone with a conviction stemming from marijuana will qualify for Biden’s marijuana reform plan. If you have a prior conviction from a marijuana DUI in Arizona, you may be wondering if you will benefit from these latest developments. The short answer is, probably not. Read on to learn more about President Biden’s marijuana reform policy, and why your Arizona marijuana DUI conviction probably won’t be affected. If you have additional questions for an Arizona DUI defense lawyer, call 480-448-9800 to schedule your free phone consultation.
Biden’s Marijuana Reform Statement
Biden’s marijuana reform statement was issued on October 6, 2022. The first major part of the reform pardons all prior federal simple marijuana possession convictions. Simple possession will typically only involve smaller amounts- for example, if the defendant had several pounds of marijuana when arrested, they would likely receive an intent to distribute charge. Simple possession wouldn’t involve amounts beyond regular personal use, interstate distribution, child endangerment, etc.
The second major part of the reform statement was Biden’s plea to all governors to offer the same pardon for state marijuana simple possession convictions. This would extend pardons to the local and state level, not just the federal level. However, Arizona is actually the state with the most federal marijuana possession arrests. There were approximately 4,692 federal marijuana possession offenses in Arizona between 2015 and 2021. However, only two of these arrests occurred in 2021.
The third aspect of Biden’s reform statement asks the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review marijuana’s scheduling under federal law. Marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 substance under federal law, sharing a class with substances like LSD and heroin. This would potentially reduce the severity level of marijuana offenses under federal law.
Lastly, Biden affirmed in his reform statement that the standards for trafficking, marketing, and underage sales for marijuana should remain in place. Even if marijuana is decriminalized and legalized, there should still be limitations in place, just as there are for alcohol.
More Arizona Federal Marijuana Statistics
Federal simple marijuana possession convictions disproportionately affect people of color, and in Arizona, the majority apply to non-US citizens. Since 2015, 95% of federal marijuana possession convictions were Hispanic, with 93% of offenders being male. Only 11% of these convictions are US citizens.
Marijuana DUIs & 2022 Reform
As you can see, the four calls to action in Biden’s DUI reform plan don’t include pardoning marijuana DUI offenses. First of all, marijuana DUIs are usually state-level misdemeanor charges. Biden’s plan only applies to federal charges. Secondly, it only calls for pardons of simple marijuana possession. Additional crimes, like drug dealing and driving under the influence, won’t be included in marijuana simple possession pardons. Because driving under the influence is a separate offense from simple marijuana possession, marijuana DUIs won’t be pardoned by Biden’s reform plan.
Arizona Marijuana DUI
A.R.S. § 28-1381 is Arizona’s main law regarding driving under the influence. To be intoxicated by marijuana for the purposes of this statute, the driver must be “under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance of any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.” This means that to be convicted of an Arizona marijuana DUI, the driver must have marijuana in their system AND it must be enough for the driver to be impaired at least to the slightest degree. This requirement that the driver be impaired to the slightest degree is reaffirmed by A.R.S. § 36-2852. Having a medical marijuana prescription is not a defense against marijuana DUI charges. Just like someone can be charged with DUI for driving under the influence of intoxicating prescription medication, someone can be arrested for driving under the influence of medically prescribed marijuana.
Marijuana DUI Penalties
Most DUIs in Arizona are misdemeanors, including marijuana DUI convictions. However, unlike many states, a misdemeanor DUI conviction doesn’t mean a slap on the wrist and a small fine. In Arizona, even a first-time DUI offender must spend at least one night in jail. The minimum jail sentence is technically 10 days, but 9 of them can be commuted. The defendant will also be fined a minimum of $1,250 upon conviction. The defendant will need to complete drug screening and treatment before they can get their driver’s license back, which will be after some period of suspension. The defendant can expect their auto insurance rates to increase exponentially as they will now be considered a “high risk” driver. Additionally, a defendant convicted of marijuana DUI in Arizona will be required to complete community service.
Is There a BAC “Legal Limit” For Marijuana?
Not exactly. Blood concentration level can’t be measured for marijuana the same way that it can for alcohol. Many states use the standard of 5 ng/ml of Delta-9 THC as the level of impairment for marijuana. A defendant will have a difficult time fighting DUI marijuana charges if they have that level or higher in their bloodstream at the time of arrest. If there is evidence showing the defendant had sufficient traces of marijuana in their system at the time of arrest, their lawyer will need to be creative when finding legal defenses to advocate for their client.
What Types of Defenses Are Available Against Marijuana DUI Charges?
It is difficult to argue against chemical evidence that a defendant was high while operating a motor vehicle. However, that evidence may not have been obtained in a constitutional manner, making it inadmissible in court. For example, the officer may have not had reasonable suspicion to pull the defendant over, which could be fatal to the prosecution’s case. The police also could have failed to meet constitutional requirements after arresting the defendant, like failure to read Miranda rights. There may be problems with how a defendant’s chemical sample was measured, handled, transported, etc. The best way to spot these types of issues is by reviewing case details with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Your Arizona Legal Defense Team For Marijuana-Related Offenses & More
Whether you’re looking to fight current marijuana charges or deal with a prior marijuana conviction, Arizona Zero Down DUI is ready to help. Navigating all the issues surrounding state and federal level marijuana offenses can be complex, which is why you should seek out the guidance of an experienced defense lawyer. A well-designed legal strategy could be the difference between jail and probation, a restricted driver’s license and no license at all, and more. Additionally, your situation could be more serious due to previous convictions or other accompanying charges with your marijuana DUI. Our Arizona defense team combines our high quality experience with affordable rates and payment plan options. We offer free initial consultations by phone for added privacy and convenience. For all of your Arizona criminal defense needs, call 480-448-9800 to schedule your free consultation with a member of our firm today.
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