Published on:

Drowsy Driving v. Alcohol/Drugs Impaired Driving in Arizona

Some studies show that an estimated 15 to 33 percent of fatal crashes may involve drowsy driving.

In a recent survey reported by the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Institute of Medicine on average, an alarming 5% of respondents reported falling asleep at the wheel, 30 days prior to the survey.

Drowsy Driving is often mistaken for alcohol or drug related DUI resulting in arrest. This is due to the fact that signs of alcohol or drug impaired driving, and drowsy driving share similar characteristics. These signs include but are not limited to slower reaction time; reduced attentiveness behind the wheel; and impaired decision making skills. All of these can lead to serious and fatal accidents or mistaken alcohol or drug impairments.

Among other reasons, drivers at risk of drowsiness while driving include those who use prescription or over-the-counter medications that cause sedation.

Arizona DUI laws are very strict and harsh. A person may be arrested for DUI if they are driving impaired to the slightest degree due to alcohol or drugs. However, a person found with trace compounds of marijuana or other drugs in their system are also at risk of being prosecuted for DUI even if they are not impaired, because of the language in the Arizona DUI laws.

Under A.R.S. 28-1381 a motorist can be prosecuted for DUI if they are found to have been driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle, under the following circumstances:

  • While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs, vapors, toxic substances or in any combination; and the driver is found to be impaired to the slightest degree;
  • If the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle, and the BAC results from alcohol they consumed either before or while driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle;
  • While any drug defined in A.R.S. 13-3401 or its metabolite is found in the person’s body.

This law may apply to drowsy driving if it is caused by alcohol or drugs and the driver is impaired to the slightest degree.  But it can also apply to a drowsy drivers found to have drugs defined under Arizona law in their bodily systems, whether or not they are found to be impaired or not. For example, a driver suspected of DUI may pass a Standard Field Sobriety Test conducted by a police officer.  But if they were investigated for DUI with probable cause, and found to have Marijuana or other drugs in their system, the person may still be arrested and prosecuted for DUI.

Both alcohol and drug related DUI convictions call for minimums of 10 days jail terms; 90 suspension of driver’s licenses; substance or alcohol abuse screening, counseling or treatment; use of an Ignition Interlock Device on their vehicle; probation; fines, fees, costs, and restitution if applicable. Other civil and criminal penalties may apply.

Impaired Driving Defense Lawyer in Tempe, AZ

Even though a person is arrested in Tempe AZ for DUI, by law they are entitled to defend their charges. The most effective defense is provided by a qualified and experienced criminal defense and DUI attorney. Even if a person’s blood test reveals alcohol or drugs in their system, defenses may apply to their charges. The defendant’s chances of getting any type of favorable outcome in their case will increase with retention of a DUI defense lawyer who can protect their rights and defend the DUI charges.

Additional Resources