DUI Laws That Drivers in Arizona Should Understand
The dangers of drunk driving are among the most significant lessons taught to all drivers. In fact, due to public safety campaigns, most people learn that driving while intoxicated by alcohol is illegal long before they ever get behind the wheel. Not only is drunk driving unsafe, but it is also illegal, and drivers can face a wide variety of serious consequences if they choose to drive after drinking or using drugs.
Even though drivers are aware that drunk driving is illegal, they may not fully understand the actual laws that apply in these situations, especially since these laws can vary from state to state. When it comes to driving under the influence (DUI), Arizona has some of the strictest laws in the United States, and those who live in the state or are visiting from elsewhere should be sure to understand the offenses that could lead to DUI charges and the potential consequences they could face. Those who are facing drunk driving charges will want to work with a Tuscon DUI defense lawyer to determine their legal options.
The Definition of DUI in Arizona
One of the reasons the DUI laws in Arizona are so strict is because drivers do not necessarily need to exceed the standard .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to be charged with DUI. According to Arizona Revised Statutes 28-1381, it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle if alcohol, drugs, or other substances have caused them to be “impaired to the slightest degree.” This means that even if a driver’s BAC is below the legal limit, they could still be arrested and face DUI charges if a police officer observes any signs that indicate that they are impaired, such as slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or marijuana in a car, or a driver stumbling when exiting their vehicle.
While some DUI arrests may be based on an officer’s observations, chemical testing of a driver’s BAC will usually play a role in the charges a person will face. A measurement of a driver’s BAC within two hours after they were in control of a vehicle will determine whether the driver is presumed to be impaired. If a driver’s BAC is .08% or more, it is presumed that they were under the influence. A BAC between .05% and 08% is indeterminate, and other evidence may be used to determine whether the driver was impaired. A driver with a BAC of .05% or less is presumed to not be under the influence, but other evidence may be presented to demonstrate that they met the threshold of being impaired to the slightest degree.
Drivers may also face DUI charges if they have any amount of certain types of drugs in their system. These include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, PCP, LSD, and prescription opioids. In addition, drivers with a commercial driver’s license who are operating a commercial vehicle may be charged with DUI if they have a BAC of .04% or more.
For first-time offenders, a conviction on “basic” DUI charges will result in a minimum sentence of 10 days in jail, although a judge may choose to suspend all but one day of the sentence if the driver completes a drug or alcohol screening, treatment, or education program. A driver will also be required to pay fines and fees totaling around $2,000 and complete a traffic survival school course, and their driver’s license will be suspended for at least 90 days. They may also be sentenced to community service or probation, and they may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle for 12 months.
Certain situations can lead to more serious DUI charges with more severe penalties. These include:
- Second DUI – If a person is convicted of DUI a second time within seven years, they will face a minimum jail sentence of 90 days, although all but 30 days of a sentence can be suspended if the driver completes a drug or alcohol screening, treatment, or education program. A driver will also be sentenced to at least 30 hours of community service, their license will be revoked for at least one year, and they will be required to pay fines and fees of at least $3,000.
- Extreme DUI – Drivers who have a BAC of at least .15% will be required to pay fines and fees totaling more than $2,500, and they will be sentenced to at least 30 days in jail, although all but nine days of a sentence may be suspended if a driver equips their vehicle with an IID for at least one year. If a second DUI conviction within seven years is an extreme DUI, the driver will be sentenced to at least 180 days in jail without being eligible for suspension or probation, and at least 90 days of the sentence must be served consecutively.
- Super Extreme DUI – Drivers who have a BAC of at least .20% will be required to pay fines and fees totaling more than $2,500, and they will be sentenced to at least 45 days in jail, although all but 14 days of a sentence may be suspended if a driver equips their vehicle with an IID for at least one year. If a second DUI conviction within seven years is a super extreme DUI, the driver will be sentenced to at least 120 days in jail without being eligible for suspension or probation, and at least 60 days of the sentence must be served consecutively.
- Aggravated DUI – Drunk driving may be charged as a felony if a driver had two previous DUI convictions within seven years, if they were driving while their license was suspended or revoked, if they were required to use an IID in their vehicle, if they had a passenger under the age of 15 in their vehicle at the time of their arrest, or if they were driving the wrong way on a highway. A felony conviction may result in a sentence of between four months and two years in prison. A driver may also be required to pay fines and fees of more than $5,000, their driver’s license will be suspended for three years, and they may be sentenced to community service or probation.
Because the DUI laws in Arizona are so strict, drivers who are facing these charges will want to be sure to secure legal representation. A Pima County DUI defense attorney can help drivers understand the specific charges, the potential consequences, and the strategies that can help them avoid serious penalties whenever possible.