ARS 28-1381 (A)(3) DUI Drugs

Under Arizona law, ARS 28-1381 (A)(3) considers a person guilty of DUI if they’re slightly impaired due to alcohol or drugs.


This page will discuss all you need to know about being charged with a Drug DUI in Arizona.


Continue reading below. If you have any questions, contact DUI attorney Arja Shah today.


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Arizona DUI Drug Defense From The Shah Law Firm

When you think about driving under the influence or DUI, alcohol probably comes to mind. Arizona law, mainly ARS 28-1381(A)(3), includes not just alcohol but also drugs in its rules against impaired driving.

Whether it’s a prescription medication or a controlled substance, driving under the influence of any drug can land you in serious trouble.

This article will explore the implications of a DUI Drugs charge under ARS 28-1381(A)(3).

The key topics we’ll discuss include:

It’s alarming that according to the Arizona Department of Transportation, nearly 5,000 DUI drug arrests were made in the state in 2021.

With Arizona’s tough stance on intoxicated driving, understanding these laws’ specifics and implications becomes crucial.



Understanding ARS 28-1381(A)(3): An Overview

ARS 28-1381(A)(3) is a specific section of the Arizona Revised Statutes that prohibits anyone from driving or being physically controlled by a vehicle while any drug or its metabolite is in the person’s body.

This law is strict, making it illegal to drive with any trace of illegal drugs or their metabolites, regardless of whether the driver is impaired.

How Arizona Defines DUI Drugs Under ARS 28-1381(A)(3)

Under ARS 28-1381(A)(3), drugs include not only illegal substances like marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine but also prescription medications if they impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Simply put, if a substance can impair your driving ability, it can be considered a “drug” under this law.

This comprehensive definition expands the scope of DUI to encompass a broad range of substances beyond alcohol.

Standard of Proof in ARS 28-1381(A)(3) Cases

In DUI drug cases under ARS 28-1381(A)(3), the burden of proof for the state is distinct from that of many other DUI offenses.

For most DUI cases, the state has to show that the accused was physically impaired to the point where they couldn’t operate a vehicle safely.

However, the rules differ regarding ARS 28-1381(A)(3).

Here, the focus isn’t on whether the person could not drive safely due to impairment; instead, the state only needs to prove that the driver had an illegal drug or its metabolite in their system while behind the wheel.

This difference is significant. It means that even if a driver doesn’t exhibit any impairment, they can still be charged and convicted under ARS 28-1381(A)(3) if the tests reveal the presence of drugs or their metabolites.

Take, for example, a scenario where a driver is pulled over for a minor traffic violation, like a broken tail light.

During the traffic stop, the officer doesn’t notice any obvious signs of impairment—no slurred speech, no trouble with coordination, and the driver passes a field sobriety test.

However, suppose the officer suspects recent drug use due to other indicators, such as the smell of marijuana or the driver’s overly dilated pupils. In that case, they might call for a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) or request a blood or urine test.

If the test returns positive for any drug classified as illegal or its metabolite—even if the driver showed no impairment—the driver can be charged under ARS 28-1381(A)(3).

Commonly Misunderstood Aspects of ARS 28-1381(A)(3)

One misunderstanding often surrounding ARS 28-1381(A)(3) is that charges only apply to those under the influence of illegal substances.

However, the reality is that this statute applies to both illegal drugs and legal substances, such as prescription or over-the-counter medications, if they impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario.

Suppose a driver named John has been prescribed a potent painkiller for a recent back surgery. His doctor explicitly warned him that the medication might make him drowsy or dizzy and advised him not to drive while taking it. One afternoon, John decides to run some errands while on his medication, believing he is not affected. However, he struggles to maintain his lane on the road, and a police officer pulls him over.

The officer, noticing John’s sluggish response and disoriented demeanor, suspects he may be impaired and performs a field sobriety test, which John fails. A subsequent blood test reveals the presence of the prescription painkiller in John’s system. Even though this medication is perfectly legal and was prescribed correctly to him, John can be charged with a DUI under ARS 28-1381(A)(3) because he controlled a vehicle while impaired by the drug.

Another misconception regarding ARS 28-1381(A)(3) is the belief that you have to be actively driving to be charged.

The reality, however, is that Arizona law uses the term ‘actual physical control’ of a vehicle.

This means that even if you’re not driving, you can be charged if you have the potential to operate the vehicle while impaired.

For instance, if you’ve found yourself asleep in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, even if the car is parked and not running, you can still be charged under ARS 28-1381(A)(3).

These examples underscore the breadth of ARS 28-1381(A)(3) and how easily well-intentioned individuals face serious charges. Understanding these aspects of the law is crucial to protect oneself from potential legal pitfalls.

The Role of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) in DUI Drug Cases

Drug Recognition Experts are specially trained law enforcement officers who evaluate individuals suspected of drug-impaired driving.

They use a 12-step process, which includes field sobriety tests and physiological assessments, to determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs.

DRE evaluations can form a crucial part of the evidence in DUI drug cases.

Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws on ARS 28-1381(A)(3) Cases

Arizona’s medical marijuana laws add a layer of complexity to DUI drug cases.

While medical marijuana cardholders are allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, they are still prohibited from operating a vehicle while impaired by the drug.

However, a registered patient won’t be convicted under ARS 28-1381(A)(3) solely because marijuana metabolites were found in their system.

If you’re facing a DUI drug charge under ARS 28-1381(A)(3), having an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side is crucial.

The Shah Law Firm has the expertise and knowledge to navigate Arizona’s complex DUI laws, fight for your rights, and work towards the best possible outcome for your case. 

When it comes to DUI charges involving drugs, knowledge is power.

The more you know about Arizona’s DUI laws, the better equipped you are to make informed decisions about your defense. And having an attorney who specializes in DUI defense can give you the advantage you need in a system that often feels stacked against you.

DUI charges don’t just put your driving privileges at risk; they can impact every aspect of your life. That’s why it’s essential to understand the charges and potential consequences and have a skilled defense attorney on your side, advocating for your rights and fighting for the best possible outcome.

The Shah Law Firm is ready to stand by your side, offer you the defense you deserve, and help guide you through this challenging time.

Top 5 FAQs About ARS 28-1381 (A)(3)

Below are the most common questions when a person has been arrested and charged with a DUI while impaired with drugs.

What substances are considered "drugs" under ARS 28-1381 (A)(3)?

Under this statute, “drugs” include any drug defined in section 13-3401, including illegal substances, over-the-counter medications, and prescription medications if they impair the ability to operate a vehicle safely.

How does the law determine if I was under the influence of drugs while driving?

The law can use evidence such as field sobriety tests, chemical tests, physical signs of impairment, or Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) evaluations to determine if you were under the influence.


Can the police force me to take a drug test if suspected of a DUI under ARS 28-1381 (A)(3)?

Arizona’s implied consent law states that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, then you consent to take a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining drug content.

Does ARS 28-1381 (A)(3) apply to both recreational and prescription drugs?

Yes, ARS 28-1381 (A)(3) applies to any drug listed in section 13-3401, which can include both recreational drugs like marijuana and cocaine, and prescription drugs like opioids or benzodiazepines if they impair your driving ability.

Can I refuse a Drug Recognition Expert's (DRE) evaluation if I'm suspected of a DUI under ARS 28-1381 (A)(3)?

Yes, you can refuse a DRE evaluation. However, refusal may lead to automatic license suspension under Arizona’s implied consent law and can be used as evidence against you in court.

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