Driving With Drugs In Your System – A Strict Liability Offense

by Ashley Adams

Just recently, an Arizona Court in State v. Marchiondo declined to strike down a statute prohibiting drugs in the body while driving for being “vague.” A.R.S. § 28-1381(A)(3) expressly provides that, “It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle. . .[w]hile there is any drug defined in § 13-3401 or its metabolite in the person’s body.” The driver, Marchiondo, tested positive for marijuana after being arrested. Marchiondo presented expert testimony which indicated that he was not impaired at the time he was driving. He challenged the statute claiming that it was ambiguous.

The Court confirmed that driving with drugs in your system is a strict liability defense. In other words, it does not matter if the driver is impaired. The legislature made clear that the presence of any metabolite in one’s system while driving is illegal. The Court held, “This statute provides a person of average intelligence reasonable notice that it is a criminal offense to drive with a metabolite of marijuana in one’s body.” The Court noted that one who uses marijuana before driving does so “at his own peril.

The statute does not criminalize the presence of metabolites which are found in legal, over the counter drugs. Also, generally, one cannot be prosecuted for having drugs in his system if he has a prescription and has administered the drug properly. However, mixing proscription drugs and alcohol can expose one to prosecution if the effect results in impairment. Always consult with your physician or pharmacist if you have concerns about a drug’s effect on your ability to drive.

If you have further questions about driving with drugs in your system or another legal issue, please contact Ashley D. Adams, PLC 480.219.1366 or via this web site. Ashley is a criminal defense attorney in Scottsdale and a former federal prosecutor.