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“Blackout Wednesday” begins Heightened DUI Enforcement for the Holidays

Causes and Consequences of Extreme DUI and Super Extreme DUI Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) The Wednesday evening, before Thanksgiving, is sometimes referred to in pop culture as “Blackout Wednesday”. It earned this nickname, due to the popularity of binge drinking that night.

Though the term is used loosely, binge drinking and its consequences are very serious matters. According to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Binge drinking can lead to loss of consciousness, coma, and death when alcohol is consumed rapidly in large amounts.

The CDC reports that excessive drinking was responsible for 88,000 deaths in 2013.   Binge drinking leads to extraordinarily high levels of Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) at or above .08 percent BAC during a short period of time. It is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as drinking 4 or 5 alcoholic beverages within about 2 hours.

According to the CDC, most people who engage in binge drinking are not typically alcohol dependent. Most recent studies reported by the CDC which were conducted with combined efforts from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services revealed that 9 of 10 adults who indulge in alcohol excessively are not not considered physically dependent upon alcohol.  But the study also revealed that one out of every three adults did drink in excess, which includes the dangerous activity of binge drinking.

Those that binge drink, however, are often unaware of its hazards to their health, or the fact that it can result in impaired driving, serious injuries, fatal accidents and DUI arrests.

Arizona’s DUI Season Enforcement

The winter holidays bring many travelers to state to visit friends, family and to enjoy the warm weather in Phoenix, and throughout Maricopa County.   So for those who plan to visit or drive in Arizona, it is important to be familiar with the laws and the increased DUI law enforcement presence here in the valley, especially this time of the year.

The week of Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of the holiday season, which law enforcement officials frequently refer to as “DUI season.” Until New Year’s Day, drivers in Arizona can expect to see increase patrols on streets and highways. Last year, law enforcement in Arizona made 3,042 arrests in this period for driving under the influence — more than 10 percent of all the DUI arrests made in the state in 2013.

There is usually a heightened presence with formal efforts from combined law enforcement agencies throughout the state.  Drivers can also expect DUI checkpoints in areas where there usually increased volumes of traffic.

Arizona has adopted many of the DUI checkpoint guidelines from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA).  The NHTSA guidelines for staging safety checkpoints also include polices that address public communications from law enforcement agencies or other officials about the checkpoints.  The NHTSA’s guidelines require that the locations of the checkpoints are to be widely publicized, with the purpose of producing a deterrent effect.    So a small number of motorists hear about then in the media or through word of mouth.  But the majority of drivers are unaware of these roadblocks until they find themselves in a DUI checkpoint line-up.

Arizona DUI Sentencing Considerations

Arizona has some of the toughest laws and penalties for impaired driving in the country.  A broad range of factors may apply in determining the specific charges a person might face, which will have an impact on the type of punishment received.

With regard to penalties, here are some fundamental Arizona rules:

  • The higher the BAC, the longer the jail or prison terms and more harsh the penalties;
  • Repeat offenses are treated harshly, and may raise a Misdemeanor to a Felony;
  • The more repeat offenses, the longer the incarceration or prison terms;
  • Aggravated factors surrounding a DUI will result in a Felony;
  • All Aggravated Impaired Driving (Felony) Charges expose a person to prison

Aggravated Factors

Under Arizona law A.R.S.  28-1383 a felony DUI is an impaired driving offense that is elevated to a felony due to one or more of the following Aggravated Factors:

  • 3 or more repeat DUI convictions within 84 months;
  • DUI while driving on an invalid, revoked, expired, or suspended license;
  • Impaired Driving with a passenger under 15 years of age in the vehicle;
  • DUI that resulted in a serious injury or fatal accident

Felony DUI charges expose a person to a minimum of 10 to 30 days, and up to 8 months or more in prison; $4,000 in fines, fees, and assessments; revocation of driving privileges for 1 year; installation and use of ignition interlock device (IID) in vehicle at the defendant’s expense for 2 years; possible forfeiture of vehicle; alcohol and substance abuse screening, counseling and treatment.

Arizona Impaired Driving, Extreme DUI, Super Extreme DUI Laws and Penalties  

The legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is .08 percent BAC.   Most people reach this level of intoxication after fewer than two drinks, or two ounces of liquor.

However, in Arizona it is also possible for a motorist to in violation of DUI laws if their BAC is below .08 percent if they are driving “impaired to the slightest degree” under A.R.S. 28-1381 (A) (1); or driving impaired due to drugs or their metabolite under A.R.S. 28-1381 (A) (3).

Penalties for a first time impaired driving with a BAC of .08 to .15 percent call for 10 day jail terms which may be reduced to one day with successful completion of an alcohol/substance program through DUI court; $1,250.00 in fines, fees, and assessments; Driving suspension for 90 days due to alcohol DUI; 1 year driver’s license revocation for Drug DUI; 6 months to 1 year IID; and probation.

Extreme DUI and Super Extreme DUI penalties are costly from the standpoint of the losses in freedom, driving privileges, finances, and other consequences.

An “extreme DUI,” under A.R.S. § 28-1382(A)(1), is an offense in which the accused drove or had actual physical control of a vehicle with a BAC between .15 and .20 percent.  A “super extreme DUI,” under A.R.S. § 28-1382(A)(2), means the driver had a BAC at or above .20.

While this may seem very high, when a person binge drinks, he or she may consume multiple “shots” of liquor in a relatively short period of time. This can cause an exponentially higher BAC. It also takes several hours for the liver to process the alcohol. Until that process is complete, the person will have alcohol in their system.

First time Extreme DUI penalties call for 30 day in jail, $2,750.00 in fines, fees, assessments, driver’s license suspension for 90 days;  IID for 1 year; participation in alcohol/substance abuse counseling and treatment program; and supervised probation. Other penalties may apply.

First time super extreme DUI  convictions call for 45-day jail terms, $2,750.00 fines, fees and assessments; driving suspension for 90 days; IID for 18 months, alcohol/substance abuse treatment program; and supervised probation. Other penalties may apply.

The most severe of DUI Extreme and Super Extreme convictions are reserved for 2nd violations within 84 months. Extreme DUI with a prior impaired driving conviction calls for 120 days in jail; 1 year driver’s license revocation; IID one year; fines fees and  for $3,250.00; probation or community restitution. Other penalties may apply.

Second Offense Super Extreme DUI with one prior within 84 months calls for 180 days in jail without eligibility of probation or suspension of sentence; $3750.00 fines, fees, and assessments; driving privileges revoked for 1 year; IID for 2 years; 30 hours of community restitution; and other penalties may apply.

Extreme DUI Defense in Tempe

A person who is arrested and charged with an extreme or super extreme DUI may believe they are in a hopeless situation and the consequences facing them are inevitable.  But by law, an arrest does not mean they will be found guilty.  They have the right to hire an effective DUI attorney to defend their charges.

In the criminal justice systems, a prosecutor’s job is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty, and get a conviction. They are paid by the jurisdiction or state, and work for them, not the defendant.  Judges and Prosecutors are not obligated to point out weaknesses in their case, unjustified charges, constitutional rights violations, or any other defenses that might lead to a dismissal, acquittal or favorable outcome in your case.

For these reasons it is important to retain your own skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to be your legal advocate.  Your DUI defense attorney will make sure your rights are protected, and have not been violated.   If applicable, they will challenge the evidence brought forward. DUI tests are not infallible, and their results may be called into question. Your lawyer will investigate every step police took leading up to, during and after the arrest. Any mistakes made while cleaning or calibrating a device can result in test results being excluded by a motion to suppress.

Your lawyer will also examine the circumstances behind the traffic stop or how the checkpoint was set up. If the police lacked reasonable suspicion or failed to follow procedure, the arrest and any resulting evidence may be tossed out. This often leads to charges being dismissed.

15 Tips to keep Your Holidays Celebrations and Driving Safe

• Plan for a designated driver, or alternative ride home if you know you will be drinking;

• Take advantage of free ride programs such as Safe Ride Home by AAA;

• Call a taxi if you have not otherwise prepared an alternative ride home;

• Don’t let friends drink and drive;

• Be aware that other drivers on the street may be impaired, and drive defensively;

• When entertaining be sure to offer alternative non-alcoholic beverages;

• Do not engage in binge drinking

• Raise awareness to friends or family of the dangers, if you see them engaging in binge drinking;

• Get plenty of rest and say alert before traveling;

• If you are going to drink spirituous liquor, make sure you eat food with it;

• Try not to drink more than one spirituous beverage per hour;

• Know the age drinking laws in your state and do not offer, sell, or deliver liquor to underage drinkers;

• Never leave a friend or family member alone if they have drank excessively, engaged in binge drinking; or have become unconscious. Call or seek medical help for them;

• Obey the speed limit, and other traffic laws;

• Do not text or use any mobile devices while driving

The Law Office of James Novak would like to wish everyone as safe and joyful holiday season.  

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