By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
One of the legal kerfluffles (another way of saying “brouhahas”) that has faced AZ in recent months was the tendency of certain prosecutors to charge drivers with DUIs even if they were not under the influence at the time of their arrest. The cases were built on blood tests that showed metabolites of a drug in the driver’s bloodstream.
Metabolites are produced by the body when it processes a substance, *any* substance.
Most metabolites are inactive, or at least don’t produce intoxicating effects.
However, that hasn’t stopped police and prosecutors from using the presence of metabolites to bootstrap charges against someone who wasn’t under the influence while driving. In many cases, the ingestion of the drug in question was days or even weeks before; in some cases, the exposure to the drug was indirect.
For instance, detectable traces of marijuana can remain in blood and urine for two weeks to a month after exposure, long after any intoxicating effects have disappeared.
The targets of the ginned-up cases objected to being charged with DUI when they weren’t under the influence. Shocking, that.
In 2014, the Arizona Supreme Court put an end to the practice when it ruled that the presence of inactive metabolites in someone’s bloodstream do not constitute evidence of intoxication.
Fast-forward to 2015, where certain members of the Arizona legislature have decided to “adjust” the state’s DUI law, in light of that decision.
Folks, meet HB2273.
Sponsored by Republican representatives Sonny Borrelli, Regina Cobb, Anthony Kern, Brenda Barton, Noel Campbell, TJ Shope, and Bob Thorpe, it proposes to change a few words in the applicable statute.
1. If the test results show a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, if the results show a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more and the violator was driving or in actual physical control of a commercial motor vehicle or if the results show there is any drug defined in section 13-3401 or any of its metabolite active or inactive metabolites in the person’s body and the person does not possess a valid prescription for the drug, the violator’s license or permit to drive will be suspended or denied for not less than ninety consecutive days.
They propose to take the word in red and with a line through it out of the statute and replace it with the words in blue.
In case it isn’t clear, the Republicans are proposing to undo the state supreme court’s ruling, and again make someone criminally liable for DUI, even when they aren’t under the influence.
The concern in these cases is over drugs like marijuana, but even something like chocolate has metabolites that are produced by the human body when it processes chocolate.
Maybe after this, Borrelli et. al. will seek to address the situation of driving after eating chocolate.
Look for “DUI-Kit Kat” coming to your local paper’s police activity log soon…