The Ins and Outs of DUIs in Arizona

Lerner & Rowe Law Group

Because alcohol is a depressant, consuming alcoholic beverages slows down your central nervous system, which delays your brain functions. This affects your ability to process information and slows your hand-eye coordination. Which puts you at a much higher risk of having an automobile accident. The more alcohol you consume, the more likely you’ll become impaired, and the more likely you are to have an accident.

Driving under the influence (DUI), also referred to as driving while intoxicated (DWI), falls under the serious crime category in some state. Arizona for example is known for having some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the country, but experienced DUI lawyers in Phoenix can help protect your rights and fight a conviction.

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DUI Prevention Measures in Arizona

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 29 people died every day in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes in 2016, which translated to one person every 50 minutes. That same year, Arizona reported 856 fatal crashes with 952 total deaths, including 302 alcohol-related fatalities accounting for a little over 31% of all fatal crashes.

Of the alcohol-related fatalities, 181 deaths occurred in Maricopa county and 93 of these were in Phoenix alone. To attempt to keep these numbers from escalating, Arizona law enforcement takes DUI prevention very seriously.

The state has implemented numerous DUI prevention measures, including:

  • Administrative License Revocation;
  • Zero Tolerance Law;
  • .08 BAC Law, Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21;
  • Ignition Interlock Devices on first and all subsequent DUI offenses; and
  • Intensive sobriety checkpoint programs and also mass media DUI prevention campaigns.

If you are charged with DUI or DWI in Arizona our DUI lawyers in Phoenix can help you understand what may happen.

DUI Versus DWI

DUI and DWI are essentially the same thing. They both boil down to a criminal offense charged against a person who is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of some form of intoxicant.

This includes alcohol or drugs of any kind, including prescription drugs, if they impair your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. In some states, DUI and DWI laws have two completely different charges with their own unique set of penalties.

In Arizona, DUI and DWI equate to the same charges and carry identical punishments. However, each has somewhat different definitions.

  • Being charged with DUI does have a threshold blood alcohol concentration and is defined under ARS 28-1381, Paragraph A, Section 1 as driving under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, drug, toxic vapor substance or combination of the three that impairs you in the slightest degree.
  • DWI does require proof of a certain BAC level and is defined under ARS 28-1381, Paragraph A, Section 2 as driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher within two hours of driving.

However, you can face charges of DUI/DWI no matter what your BAC level at the time of your arrest. You can even end up arrested and charged with DUI/DWI if caught driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance. Both instances can occur if a law enforcement officer has reason to believe you’re driving impaired.

This is a big reason why the phrase “drunk driving” is being phased out and replaced with “impaired driving.” In Arizona, a DUI and DWI is usually a misdemeanor, but it is still a serious crime that requires knowledgeable DUI lawyers in Phoenix in your corner.

Arizona DUI Definitions

DUI and DWI basically mean the same in Arizona. However, your blood alcohol concentration and any previous alcohol-related convictions will impact the charges and ultimate outcome of your case.

If you are accused of committing any type of DUI you may face harsh penalties not only from the courts, but also the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division (ADOT-MVD). MVD issues are time sensitive. So it’s imperative to consult with either a DUI lawyer or criminal lawyer who understands the nuances of the admin per se and implied consent laws.

A Phoenix DUI conviction includes jail time, fees and fines, completion of an alcohol/drug addiction evaluation and treatment program and driver’s license suspension or revocation.

Arizona DUIs are classified by BAC along with the specific circumstances of your offense.

Several DUI classifications include:

  • Adults with an .08% or higher BAC, commercial drivers with a BAC of .04% and drivers under 21 with any BAC percentage will face standard DUI charges.
  • If your BAC is .15% or higher, your DUI is classified as an Extreme DUI. Which is still a misdemeanor charge, but with harsher penalties.
  • Aggravated DUI/DWI is the highest classification and occurs when you commit a DUI with a suspended, revoked or cancelled driver’s license or for the third or subsequent time within five years of your first DUI conviction or while driving with a passenger younger than 15 years old.

Each DUI classification includes a distinct set of penalties. The more severe your DUI, the harsher the penalties and the more important it is you seek experienced DUI lawyers in Phoenix to handle your case.

Remember, based on the arresting officer’s judgment and/or discretion of the court, you may end up charged with DUI to the slightest degree even if you have a BAC less than the set legal limits.

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DUI Arrest Process

Once pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, law enforcement officers typically ask to administer field sobriety and breathalyzer tests. Field tests are designed to fail, and the accuracy of hand-held breathalyzer devices is often questionable, so a DUI attorney will often recommend it is in your best interest to politely decline these tests.

If the officer believes you have committed a DUI, he will most likely arrest you and book you at the police station. Once arrested, you will be asked to provide breath, blood or urine to determine your BAC level and our DUI lawyers in Phoenix agree it usually does not help your case to refuse.

Implied Consent Law

Under the Implied Consent Law, you automatically consent law enforcement to test for blood alcohol if arrested for DUI when you applied for and accepted a driver’s license in Arizona. You also give consent to testing for drug content.

Therefore, refusal of testing once you are arrested results in an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license, if it is your first DUI offense.

For second or third DUI offenses within an 84-month period, your driving privileges terminate for two years. Failure of a breathalyzer test can have similar results in driver’s license suspension.

If the officer provides you a yellow or pink sheet of paper with the words “Admin Per Se” or “Implied Consent” at the top you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. A Phoenix DUI lawyer can advise you on how to challenge the proposed suspension. Also, whether you can void the suspension.

DUI Penalties in Arizona

The penalties for DUI depend on the exact type of DUI you are convicted of. However, the specific circumstances of your DUI and your BAC level, may cause your penalties to differ from general penalties under Arizona law.

Penalties for a first DUI when it does not include injuries, deaths or aggravating circumstances is a misdemeanor and can include:

  • Minimum of 10 consecutive days in jail;
  • Minimum of $1,250 in fines;
  • Completion of an alcohol/drug screening, education and treatment program; and/or,
  • Community service.

Second and subsequent DUI offenses can include:

  • Minimum of 90 days in jail;
  • Minimum of $3,000 in fines;
  • License revocation for 12 months;
  • Completion of an alcohol/drug screening, education and treatment program; and/or,
  • Community service.

Extreme DUI

Extreme DUI applies if your BAC is .15% or higher and first offenses can include:

  • Minimum of 30 consecutive days in jail;
  • Ineligibility for probation or suspended jail sentence;
  • Minimum of $2,500 in fines;
  • Completion of an alcohol/drug screening, education and treatment program; and/or,
  • Community service.

Second and subsequent extreme DUI offenses can include:

  • Minimum of 120 days in jail;
  • Minimum of $3,250 in fines;
  • License revocation for 12 months;
  • Completion of an alcohol/drug screening, education and treatment program; and/or,
  • Community service.

Aggravated DUI

Aggravated DUI is a felony offense, instead of a misdemeanor and may be punishable with prison time instead of a jail sentence. You could also face charges of a Class 4 felony punishable with up to 3.75 years in prison.

You may wonder why. It’s because you now have a third DUI within 7 years of receiving your first DUI. Or, you received any type of DUI with a suspended, revoked or cancelled license. Another possibility — you had a court ordered certified ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle.

You can face charges of a Class 6 felony punishable with up to 2 years in prison if found guilty of an Aggravated DUI. Why? Because you were driving impaired with a passenger younger than 15 years old in the vehicle.

Other penalties for Aggravated DUI include:

  • One-year driver’s license revocation
  • Completion of an alcohol/drug screening, education and treatment program
  • Community service

Besides the above penalties, any alcohol DUI charge, no matter the classification, also requires you to have an Arizona Certified Ignition Interlock Device installed on every vehicle you drive.

An ignition interlock device is a breath-analyzing device that hooks up to your vehicle’s ignition system. Your vehicle will not start, if you breathe into the device and your alcohol level is above a certain amount.

The device also requires you to blow into it at random intervals if you try to operate the vehicle. Thus routinely testing your alcohol level. If any samples exceed the set BAC level, you cannot switch the device off for safety reasons.

But it will log the event. An alarm will also start until the ignition cuts off or you supply a clean breath sample. Skilled DUI lawyers in Phoenix can ensure an ignition interlock device is not on your vehicle any longer than necessary.

experienced DUI Lawyers in Phoenix

Hire the Best DUI Lawyers in Phoenix

When you need legal representation to negotiate a favorable plea bargain, win at trial, or attempt to get your DUI case dismissed, count on the experienced DUI Lawyers in Phoenix at Lerner & Rowe Law Group.

Every situation is unique. So our top DUI lawyers in Phoenix study your case extensively to learn how it may turn in your favor.

We are available to take your call anytime 24/7 at 602-667-7777. Or, you can visit our office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or take advantage of our online LiveChat.

We also offer free consultations and affordable payment plans. Which makes it less stressful to receive the legal representation you deserve when you need it most.

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein falls under legal advice for any individual case or situation. This intent of this information does not create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.