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What You Should Know about Arizona DUI Laws  

Overview of Arizona DUI Trends, Laws, Penalties, and Criminal Defense

If you live in Arizona or plan to drive in the state over the July 4th weekend it is important to be aware of the DUI laws and consequences of a conviction.

According to media reports, state and local law enforcement agencies throughout Arizona will increase DUI patrols over the July 4th weekend. Starting Friday, July 1, 2016 law enforcement, including the Phoenix and Tempe police departments, will have an increased presence throughout Maricopa County looking for drivers impaired by drugs and/or alcohol.

The increased police presence over the holiday weekend is part of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety DUI Traffic Enforcement Program, a statewide initiative to reduce motor vehicle accidents and related injuries and deaths.

Drivers can expect delays at checkpoints, particularly in high traffic areas where people are going or returning from holiday festivities and summer activities.

Although the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has not released the number of law enforcement officers that will be participating in patrols, an increased police presence can be expected. Last year Arizona law enforcement agencies executed 31,636 DUI arrests statewide— with a majority of those arrests occurring during peak seasons or holidays.

In this article we will discuss the following topics:

  • Binge Drinking and Alcohol Related Motor Vehicle Crashes Arizona
  • Statistics, Trends and Safety Tips
  • Arizona DUI Laws and Criminal Penalties
  • What to do after a DUI Arrest
  • Criminal Defense for DUI Charges

Alcohol Binge Drinking and Alcohol Related Motor Vehicle Crashes Arizona

Collisions caused impaired driving due to alcohol, like many states, are a serious problem throughout Arizona. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation or (ADOT) there were 4,941 alcohol related crashes in 2015, which resulted in 295 deaths and 3,205 injuries.

The National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that nearly one third of all traffic fatalities are caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol.

The more alcohol a person has in their system or the higher the high blood alcohol content (BAC) levels in a person’s body, the more likely they are to cause a serious auto accident.

The number one cause of high BAC levels is binge drinking.  The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as drinking 4 or 5 alcohol beverages within a short period of time, usually several hours.

The best way for a person to avoid this is to decide in advance how many drinks are safe for them to consume, and then to stick to that number.  Doing shots is particularly dangerous to the high concentrations of alcohol the body is must metabolize in a short period of time.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),  the July 4th holiday has been the most dangerous holiday of the year for underage drinkers.  Those youths who drink and drive are 87 percent more likely to binge drink on this holiday over any other during the year.  As a result their risks of being involved in a serious or fatal auto accident sharply increase.

Arizona DUI Laws and Criminal Penalties

In addition to the hazard DUI poses to everyone on the road, a criminal conviction for DUI has serious consequences.

If you will be driving in Arizona it is a good idea for you to be aware of the impaired driving laws in Arizona.

Types of DUI charges that can be brought in Arizona include:

  • Impaired to the slightest degree; R.S. 28- 1381 (A) (1)
  • .08 percent BAC or greater; R.S. 28- 1381 (A) (2)
  • .15 percent BAC or greater; R.S. 28- 1382 (A) (1)
  • .20 percent BAC or greater; R.S. 28- 1382 (A) (2)
  • Drug DUI; R.S. 28- 1381 (A) (3)
  • Underage 21 DUI; A.R.S. 4-244 (34)
  • Commercial Drivers DUI .04 percent BAC or greater A.R.S. 28- 1381 (A) (4)
  • Aggravated DUI (felony) while driver’s license is suspended or revoked A.R.S. 1383 (A) 1
  • Aggravated DUI (felony) 3rd DUI within 84 months A.R.S. 1383 (A) (2)
  • Aggravated DUI (felony) with passenger under the age of 15 in vehicle A.R.S. 1383 (A) (3)

Under Arizona DUI law, A.R.S. §28-1381 it is unlawful for a driver to drive or have actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor, any drug, vapor releasing toxic substance, or any combination thereof.

An individual may be charged with DUI if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher within two hours of driving or having actual physical control of a motor vehicle.

Though 0.08 percent is the legal limit in Arizona, a person may also be found guilty of DUI if are found to be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle if they are driving impaired to the slightest degree by drugs or alcohol.

In other words, a driver can be convicted of a DUI if they are driving below the legal limit of .08.  It also means they may be found guilty if they have not been drinking at all, but are impaired to the slightest degree due to legal or illegal drugs.

An individual convicted of a first time, non-extreme misdemeanor DUI is exposed to the following criminal penalties:

  • Imprisonment for not less than 10 consecutive days in jail and is not eligible for probation or suspension of execution of sentence until entire sentence is served
  • A fine of no less than $250.00
  • An addition $500 assessment to the state treasure in the prison construction and operations fund
  • Installation of a certified ignition interlock device for 12 months*
  • Possible Community service
  • Alcohol and drug screening
  • Alcohol and education treatment and education

If the DUI charges were based on drugs, the defendant is subject to the same penalties as alcohol DUI, with one  exception.   That is, that effective December 31, 2016 will eliminate the mandatory penalty of installing a certified ignition interlock device (IID) for drugged DUI convictions only.

Courts will now have the discretion of whether or not to impose the IID penalty in drug DUI cases. The mandatory installation of a certified ignition interlock device will remain for those convicted of DUI involving intoxicating liquor.

When it comes to underage drinking, Arizona is a zero tolerance state.  Persons under the age of 21 may be charged with DUI if they are driving with any alcohol at all in their system.

In other words a person driving under the age of 21 under the influence does not have to be driving impaired to be charge with a DUI.

DUI penalties can be devastating for youths due to that fact that they are subject to losing their driving privileges for two year in addition to impaired driving penalties imposed on drivers over the age of 21.

If a DUI charge involves aggravated factors, the offense is raised to a Felony DUI. Aggravated circumstances include driving on a suspended, revoked, or invalid driver’s license; DUI with a passenger under the age of 15 in the vehicle; Third DUI within 84 months; the DUI caused a severe injury or fatality.

In absence of aggravated factors, DUI charges that involve higher Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels in violation of Arizona’s Extreme DUI laws are still classified as misdemeanors, but call for longer jail sentences and larger fines.

All Felony DUI charges expose a person to prison terms in Arizona, with sentences that range from 10 days to 8 months in prions.  Fines fees and assessments are higher averaging $4000.00.

Other penalties include use of Ignition Interlock device for 2 years, driver’s license revocation for 1 year; felony criminal record; possible forfeiture of vehicle; possible community service; substance abuse counseling or treatment, and other penalties the court deems necessary.

What to do after a DUI Arrest

For most people a DUI arrest is an overwhelming and devastating experience.  The important thing to remember is that you have the rights in the legal system, including the right to defend your charges.

Following a DUI arrest you should invoke your right to defend your charges, by consult and retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.    

You will be usually released after your formal charges are read in an initial appearance with the judge, and given release conditions.  The release conditions are ordered to assure you return for your next court date.

Following a DUI, a driver will have their driving privileges suspended.  The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department providing you with notice that a hearing may be requested about your driving privileges.  You will have 15 days from the date of that notice to request a hearing. You will then receive a information about your scheduled hearing date, time and location of where you will need to appear for these civil proceedings.

Next is the criminal court matter of the DUI.  If retained your criminal defense attorney will guide you through the case stages, and protect your rights.

Your attorney will instruct you as to whether or not you will need to appear for the first court date which is the arraignment.    The purpose of the arraignment is again read the formal charges, and to allow you to enter a plea of guilty or not-guilty.    In some cases, your attorney can enter the plea on your behalf to the court with reservation of rights and notice to preserve your defense.

They will gather evidence and evaluate your claim to determine the best defense strategy to use based on the unique circumstances, and strive to obtain the best outcome in your case.

Criminal Defense Attorney for DUI Charges in Mesa, AZ

A DUI conviction can have a severe impact on a person’s personal and professional life. In addition to the criminal penalties, an individual faces several collateral consequences, including suspension or loss of employment and disqualification from certain professional licenses.

If charged with DUI in Arizona it is important to consult an experienced DUI defense lawyer. Maricopa County criminal defense lawyer, James Novak of The Law Office of James Novak, has years of experience defending individuals facing DUI charges, including aggravated DUI, DUI with Drugs, DUI with Injury, and more.

As a former prosecutor in Maricopa County, Attorney Novak has the knowledge and skill to build the strongest defense possible on your behalf.

The Law Office of James E. Novak diligently defends clients charged will all types of DUI throughout Maricopa County, including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, and surrounding areas.

Attorney, James Novak provides a free consultation for persons who have been charged with a DUI or crime and have active criminal charges in these service areas.

Contact or call The Law Office of James Novak at (480) 413-1499 to schedule a free confidential consultation on your DUI or any other criminal charges.

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