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5 Myths v. Facts about DUI, BAC, Alcohol, and Drugs in Arizona

“Arizona DUI enforcement, Impaired Driving Facts and Statistics, Criminal Defense for DUI Charges” 

Phoenix and East Valley DUI Enforcement over Memorial Day Weekend

Maricopa County Mesa Arizona DUI Task Force Van

The Arizona Department of Highway Safety (DPS) announced its plans to conduct a statewide highway-safety campaign.

The “Safety Team” is composed of Arizona DPS, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), and Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).

They will combine resources this Memorial Day weekend to look for impaired, distracted, or other dangerous drivers.

The Campaign is scheduled to begin Friday May 22, at 12 p.m. and end Monday evening, May 25th.

Phoenix Metro and East Valley DUI Task Force have increased law enforcement staffing to target speeders, impaired, or other unsafe drivers.

Mesa AZ PD also announced its plans to participate in the East Valley DUI Task Force. Their plans include a combination of DUI Saturation Patrols and Sobriety Checkpoint both in the daytime and evening hours.

The Mesa PD vows to employ a zero-tolerance approach to drivers found to be impaired due to alcohol, or drugs as well as drivers and occupants under 21 years of age with alcohol in their system.

Increased Awareness of Alcohol and DUI Safety for Memorial Day Weekend

On Memorial Day Americans pay formal tribute to all military families, veterans, active duty military, and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great country.

Many will drive distances, to visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes. There will be parades, USA flags flown at half-mast, and many other Memorial Services.

Often people see Memorial Day as a transition from the spring to summer season, and the beginning of summer holidays and celebrations.

Often these summer celebrations involve the use of alcohol, making it especially dangerous for students engaging in underage drinking, and all drivers on the roads.

Most people are aware that it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. And they have at least a basic idea of what it means to be legally intoxicated and how to avoid driving while drunk (i.e. no driving after more than two drinks, a belief that is often incorrect). However, there are many things people often do not understand about the laws against drinking and driving.

These misunderstandings can be highlighted on weekends such as Memorial Day. Combining day trips to local hotspots and consuming alcohol without proper planning can result in arrest, injury, and even death. Understanding these misconceptions is the best way to avoid these problems.

Myths #1: Impaired driving arrests don’t happen during the day.

Fact: A common misconception many have is that drunk driving arrests only happen at night – that police only pull people over after the bars close. This misconception is particularly relevant during Memorial Day weekend. Many people in Maricopa County and the surrounding area take advantage of the extra day off to spend time outdoors. For many, that involves drinking, sometimes in long bouts throughout the day, especially if they are spending the day floating on an inner tube on Salt River. For many of these Tempe, Mesa and Phoenix-area residents, the trip home on Bush Highway may result in a DUI arrest – or, worse, an accident.

On any given day, people drive intoxicated during daylight hours. According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most fatal DUI-related crashes do happen between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. However, a very significant share – 38.6 percent – happen during the day, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. During daylight hours, there is a fatal DUI-related crash somewhere in the nation every 139.5 minutes.

Drinking during a holiday like Memorial Day tends to be more common. Law enforcement in Maricopa County are well aware of people’s Memorial Days habits and can anticipate where high volumes of traffic and impaired drivers might be.

Officers are likely to be well-prepared for the fact that people will be intoxicated earlier in the day than normal, and will be out of the road. If a driver is pulled over or stopped at a checkpoint, the time of day does not matter. The offense becomes worse if the driver was on a family trip and had children in the car. Driving under the influence with a passenger younger than 15 years old is an aggravated DWI, punishable by a minimum jail sentence of 10, 30 or 45 days.

Myths #2:  You can drink and drive as long as your BAC is .08% the Legal Limit in Arizona

Fact: It is legal to drive over the age of 21 in Arizona, if your Blood Alcohol Content is under .08%, only if you are not found to be driving “impaired to the slightest degree.” This means you could be well below the legal limit of .08 percent, and still be arrested and prosecuted for DUI or Drug DUI in violation of A.R.S. 28-1381.

Myths #3: Drinking a couple beers an hour won’t lead to a high BAC.

Fact: Another misconception people have is that they will be OK to drive because they believe they are “taking it slow;” drinking beers throughout the day while floating on the river instead of pounding shots. However, a person who has been drinking all day while tubing, rafting or fishing is in danger of having high blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, resulting in greater penalties for an extreme DUI conviction.

An adult can typically process about one drink (12 ounces of beer, three ounces of wine, one ounce of liquor) per hour. In most circumstances, a person will be per se intoxicated with a BAC at or above .08 after consuming about two drinks within an hour. However, when a person drinks alcohol continually over a period of several hours at a rate faster than the body can process – usually about one drink an hour – the alcohol builds up in the body, and the person’s BAC rises.

A person drinking more than one drink per hour over a long period of time can very easily have a BAC exceeding .15, or even .20. A person found guilty of operating a motor vehicle with a BAC at or above .15 but less than .20 is convicted of what is called “extreme DUI.” The average BAC for a person convicted of driving under the influence is .152, placing it in extreme DUI range.

A first-time offender faces at least 30 days in jail. Additional penalties for a first-time extreme DUI offense are a fine of up to $250, and assessment of $250, an assessment of up to $1,000 for the state prison construction fund, an assessment of up to $1,000 for the public safety equipment fund, court costs, completion of a DUI course, community service or restitution, completion of an approved alcohol or drug education program, a 90-day driver’s license suspension, installation of an interlock ignition device for a year.

If the BAC was at or above .20, it is called a “super extreme DUI.” A person convicted of super extreme DUI faces a mandatory 45 consecutive days in jail, along with increased fines and an 18-month ignition interlock installation period.

Myth 4: You are not at risk for DUI if you have a Medical Marijuana Card, and are driving under the influence.  

Fact: Though, in some states it is lawful to drive with a certain amount of Marijuana in your system, Arizona law does not include such provisions. In Arizona, a person can be arrested and prosecuted for Drug DUI, even if they are qualified Medical Marijuana card holders, if they are under the influence of Marijuana and driving impaired under A.R.S. 28-1381.

Myth #5: Memorial Day is a time for young people to run wild.

Fact: Many underage people have the misconception that Memorial Day is their day to run wild. Memorial Day weekend for many students marks the end of the school year and start of summer for high school, Junior High, and college students. Unfortunately, many suffer great consequences as a result of poor decisions: According to a study by the Drug Abuse Warning Network, visits by young people to the emergency room due to alcohol use rise 11 percent during Memorial Day weekend, and rise 27 percent for those mixing drugs and alcohol.

Laws against underage drinking are often vigorously enforced during holidays like Memorial Day. Underage consumption is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $750, up to four months in jail and a criminal record. Many young people cited for underage drinking are eligible for a diversion program to avoid conviction; an attorney can help the accused be admitted to the program if that is the best option.

As mentioned above, heavy DUI patrols and checkpoints are likely, both day and night during the holiday weekend. A person younger than 21 may face DUI charges if tests detect any alcohol at all in his or her system. Conviction results in a two-year suspension of that underage person’s license.

DUI Defense Lawyer for Mesa AZ

If you have been arrested or a loved one has been arrested for driving under the influence in Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, Chandler or anywhere in Maricopa County, the best decision you can make is to immediately contact an attorney. Defense attorney defend the rights of the accused and seek the best possible result for their client, including getting charges reduced or dismissed.

It is likely law enforcement will have checkpoints along major roads in and out of recreational areas, such as the Salt River area. A person arrested at a DUI checkpoint may feel their case is hopeless. However, there are strict laws and regulations that govern how these checkpoints may be set up. The failure of police to follow these guidelines can lead to a person’s arrest being thrown out. An attorney will review every step police took to determine any and all mistakes they may have made.

Even if you failed a DUI test, there are still defenses that may exist. Police need reasonable suspicion to pull a person over, and the mere fact that a person is leaving an area where people were consuming alcohol is not sufficient. Additionally, there are significant flaws in DUI tests, and results can be challenged.

If you are arrested you have the right to be represented by an effective attorney,  to defend your charges.  An arrest is not a conviction. The burden of proof rests on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty.  If retained, James Novak, DUI defense attorney can protect your rights and defend your charges.  James Novak is a former Maricopa County Prosecutor with a deep knowledge of criminal law and criminal procedure. His experience on both sides of the criminal courtroom is a valuable asset he always puts to work for his clients. He offers a free consultation to anyone accused of a crime, including DUI, in Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, Phoenix and the surrounding area.

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