Drugs and the Law: Types, Rules, and Punishments for Drug DUI

Lerner & Rowe Law Group
drug DUI attorney
Our drug DUI attorney is here with crucial information about drug laws.

A drug DUI can be stressful to deal with, but what’s even more stressful is when you don’t know what exactly a drug DUI entails. It’s important to know how the law works so you have a better understanding of what you’re up against when charged with a drug DUI. Lerner and Rowe Law Group is here with key information from our drug DUI attorney, so listen up for critical drug DUI knowledge.

The Drug Types

Before we delve into the specifics of federal and state laws surrounding drugs, it’s best to first understand the types of drugs and their effects. Understanding the details of what drugs are and what they can do provides insight into how to safely use them (or avoid them) as well as the reasoning behind their illegality or regulation.

NOTE: Nothing in this blog should be taken as medical advice. Talk with a medical professional before starting or stopping any medications, drugs, or other substances.


Hallucinogens are substances that alter the user’s perception of reality. This is often done by disrupting regulation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood, sexual arousal and behavior, hunger, and other faculties. Common sensations induced by hallucinogens include hallucinations (i.e. seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling things that don’t exist), numbness, altered mood, and a distorted sense of time, space, and motion.

Because of these side effects, hallucinogens are considered especially dangerous when driving. A person under the influence of hallucinogens and driving may miscalculate speed, distance, traffic signals, and many other key markers for driving.

Adverse side effects and possible risks include:

  • Abnormal or distorted thoughts/mental patterns
  • Fear, paranoia, anxiety, and a sense of dread
  • Hallucinations
  • Hallucination Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Raised blood pressure and elevated heartbeat
  • Raised or lowered body temperature
  • Sweating/the chills

Some examples of hallucinogens include:

  • 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) [under some circumstances]
  • 5-MeO-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT)
  • Ayahuasca
  • Lysergic acid amide (LSA; found in morning glory seeds)
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Mescaline/Peyote
  • N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
  • Psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms)
  • Yagé


These substances operate by interfering with the processing of glutamate, a key component for perception, emotion, learning, memory, environmental recognition, and cognition. As a result, users often feel disoriented and separated from their environment, others around them, and even from themselves. Like hallucinogens, users may experience distorted perceptions of time, space, and motion; however, with dissociatives, there is a greater “foreign” feeling present that may make some users uncomfortable.

Dissociatives are dangerous because they may make users do things they normally would not do. Some dissociatives may increase the likelihood of individuals acting on suicidal thoughts. Other actions under the influence of dissociatives, such as driving or operating heavy machinery, can also cause problems while driving because of dissociatives’ mind-altering effects.

Adverse side effects and possible risks include:

  • Aggression
  • Blood pressure fluctuations
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness, nausea, or vomiting
  • Loss of motor coordination/mobility skills
  • Memory loss
  • Muscle contractions
  • Numbness
  • Panic, anxiety or psychological distress
  • Respiratory failure
  • Seizure
  • Tremors

Some examples of dissociatives include:

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM)
  • Ketamine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Salvia divinorum


Opioids/Narcotics are substances that are prescribed to treat pain. Many of them are derived from the opium poppy, a plant which produces seed capsules used in the making of opioids/narcotics. However, some drugs in the opioid/narcotic category don’t even come from opium at all. Rather, what classifies a substance as an opioid/narcotic is its ability to bind to opioid receptors in the body, its ability to produce a euphoric feeling, and its potential for addiction.

Adverse side effects and possible risks include:

  • Addiction
  • Altered heart rate
  • Cognition problems
  • Coma
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness/sleepiness
  • Heart attack
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Respiratory problems

Some examples of opioids/narcotics include:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Morphine
  • Percocet

Because of their potent side effects, it can be dangerous to use opioids/narcotics before or during driving. Consult your doctor to see which medications are safe to use while on the road. Further, always use medications as directed, and let your doctor know if you think you are developing an addiction to opioids/narcotics.


These substances operate by acting on the central nervous system (CNS) in a way that makes the user feel like they are slowing down, relaxing, and at ease. Such drugs are useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, and a variety of other conditions. However, some have high potential for addiction, and many can lead to serious health complications and even death if not taken correctly.

Adverse side effects and possible risks include:

  • Addiction
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Loss of coordination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Poor concentration/focus
  • Sexual problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Sloth and torpor

Some examples of depressants include:

  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturates (Amobarbital, Butabarbital, Phenobarbital, etc.) 
  • Benzodiazepines (Ativan, Librium, Valium, Xanax, etc.)
  • Cannabis (marijuana)


Here are substances that are useful for people with ADHD or narcolepsy. As is the case with depressants, stimulants act on the central nervous system. However, instead of a relaxing, calming feeling, a more energized, focused sensation may occur. The user may feel an enhanced sense of concentration and a rush of alertness and vigilance. However, these substances may also produce a feeling of euphoria or pleasant joy due to increased dopamine or norepinephrine, and this only enhances stimulants’ potential for addiction.

Adverse side effects and possible risks include:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Euphoria
  • Exhaustion
  • Irregular/fluctuating heart rate
  • High body temperature/fever
  • Hostility
  • Kidney malfunction
  • Liver problems
  • Overconfidence/increased risk-taking behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Respiratory issues
  • Restlessness
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Tremors

Some examples of stimulants include:

  • 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) [in some cases]
  • Adderall
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin) 
  • Nicotine
  • N-methylamphetamine (meth)


Inhalants include solvents, aerosols, gases, nitrites, and some other substances that are ingested primarily by inhalation through the nose or mouth. Such substances include harmful psychoactive chemicals that can damage the brain and lead to complications that also harm other parts of the body, including the nervous system. 

Ultimately, inhalants are not like other drugs (e.g. some opioids/narcotics) because they are only harmful and offer no benefit whatsoever. 

Adverse side effects and possible risks include:

  • Agitation/irritability
  • Choking/suffocation
  • Coma
  • Delusions
  • Distorted/slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Hypoxia
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Reproductive system problems
  • Seizure

Some examples of inhalants include:

  • Felt-tip marker fluid
  • Gasoline
  • Glue
  • Hair spray
  • Nail polish
  • Paint thinner/remover
  • Spray paint

Combining Drugs

You should never combine or mix drugs without permission from your doctor. For instance, some depressants can cause complications when mixed with stimulants. More importantly, you should always follow the instructions on the medication label, and do not alter your regimen without first consulting your doctor.

Additionally, make sure you ask about any side effects and how the medication will affect your daily activities, e.g. driving. If your medication does affect your driving ability/safety, take an alternative mode of transportation such as a bus, subway, Lyft or Uber, or even ask a friend or family member to take you where you need to go.

Arizona Drug Use and Possession Laws

Now that you know what the various types of drugs can do to the body, it’s time to learn how such substances are regulated under Arizona law. Our drug DUI attorney is here with the scoop.

Rules and Regulations

Arizona law divides drugs, or controlled dangerous substances (CDS), into six distinct categories. Those categories are:

  • Dangerous drugs
  • Marijuana
  • Narcotics
  • Peyote
  • Prescription drugs
  • Substances that emit toxic vapors

Sentencing is complex and depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Any prior drug use/possession offenses
  • Intent (e.g. personal use vs. intent to sell)
  • Nature of the crime (e.g. if the drugs were obtained via violence/force, etc.)
  • Quantity
  • Type of substance(s) used/possessed
  • Other aggravating/mitigating factors


The punishments for drug use/possession can be quite harsh, especially if there are aggravating circumstances. An example of an aggravating circumstance is when a person possesses a drug in excess of the “threshold amount,” which is the amount deemed by Arizona state law to be sufficient to establish an intent to sell. Being caught with a threshold amount will create a presumption of sales and expose you to a mandatory prison sentence, regardless of whether you have prior criminal history and regardless of further evidence.

Threshold amounts are:

  • ½ milliliters liquid LSD, or 50 doses
  • 1 gram of heroin
  • 2 pounds of marijuana (elevates to class of felony)
  • 4 pounds of marijuana (elevates to class of felony)
  • 4 grams or 50 milliliters of phencyclidine (PCP)
  • 9 grams of amphetamine
  • 9 grams of powdered cocaine (750 mg rock)
  • 9 grams of N-methylamphetamine (meth)

Also, penalties can be severe when it comes to drug DUI. If you are found driving under the influence of illegal substances or legal substances that impaired your driving ability to the slightest degree, you can face criminal charges. Yes, even if you used a legally prescribed medication you can be charged and convicted of a DUI. For this reason it’s important to seek the counsel of an experienced drug DUI or maijuana DUI lawyer to challenge the prosecutor’s ability to prove that you were impaired. 

To elaborate, a first-time drug DUI offense is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona. Consequences include six months in jail, mandatory drug treatment, and upwards of $2,500 in fines and other charges. You may also face up to five years on probation. If charged with a drug DUI, your license could potentially be suspended and you could be facing harsh mandatory minimum penalties.

How a Drug DUI Attorney Can Help

Luckily, through the professional team of criminal lawyers at Lerner and Rowe Law Group, you can receive the help you need to build a solid defense case. Here are some common ways our team can help you.

  • Proposition 200—According to Arizona’s Proposition 200, non-violent drug offenders facing their first or second charge will not face prison time. The default sentence is mandatory drug treatment and probation. However, if you are being charged for use/possession of methamphetamine, Proposition 200’s protective barrier disappears. That’s right. Proposition 200 can only do so much. Luckily, though, there are some other ways a drug DUI attorney can help. 
  • Lack of Use or Lack of Knowledge—Our team of criminal defense lawyers can build a probable defense that you didn’t use/possess knowledge of the drug. The state cannot charge you for drug use or possession if you were unaware of the drug’s presence.
  • Legitimate Medical Marijuana Use—While marijuana is still technically federally illegal, having genuine grounds for medical marijuana use may ameliorate the situation. Proof that you are a qualifying patient and that the marijuana can be traced to a reputable dispensary is required for this defense. Keep in mind, though, that simply holding a medical marijuana card will not keep you from getting charged with a marijuana DUI.
  • Legitimate Religious Use—Usually, this is the defense used for possession/use of peyote. Charges may be reduced or dismissed if the peyote used was part of a genuine religious exercise and no one in the community was harmed.
  • Illegal Search and Seizure—The Fourth Amendment entails protections against unlawful searches and seizures. There are some exceptions, however. For example, if the drugs were in plain view at the time, the state is within their right to use those drugs as evidence. Nonetheless, if there were some shady and unlawful searches going on, a criminal defense attorney can review the case for constitutional violations and possibly pursue a motion to suppress the evidence to make it inadmissible at trial.
  • Reduce Sentences—Through the talent and experience of our professional drug DUI attorneys, it may be possible for us to build a solid defense strong enough to reduce your sentence:
  1. Possession of peyote: Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor
  2. Possession with intent to breathe/inhale substances that emit toxic vapors: Class 5 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor
  3. Possession of marijuana: Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor
  4. Possession of dangerous drugs: Class 4 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor
  5. Possession of opioids/narcotics: Class 4 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor

Need Help from a Drug DUI Attorney?

If you’re charged with a drug DUI in Arizona, contact Lerner and Rowe Law Group right away. Our stellar criminal defense team offers excellent representation, and with affordable payment plan options. Visit us in our offices from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or give us a call at 602-667-7777 . Additionally, you can reach us online via our contact form or LiveChat feature.

Don’t try to mount a defense on your own. Get in touch with us for a free consultation, and we’ll help you build a solid defense case!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.