Arizona’s New DUI Laws: Update

Arizona’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws are the most commonly updated criminal laws in Arizona. Here are some notable aspects of the current status of Arizona’s DUI laws.

Simple DUI: Impaired to the Slightest Degree

The “simplest” version of an Arizona DUI is called “impaired to the slightest degree.” See A.R.S. section 28-1381(A)(1). What does it mean? It is very simple, actually. It means that a person is driving or in “actual physical control” of a vehicle in the State of Arizona while “impaired to the slightest degree” by alcohol or drugs.

This law comes down to a simple proof issue: Can the prosecution prove impairment? The types of evidence that the prosecutor and the police will use to try to prove “impairment” include: poor performance on field sobriety tests; red/watery/bloodshot eyes; poor “divided attention” skills; slurred speech; traffic violations; odor of alcohol; and several more.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: If you are under investigation for DUI, you can limit the amount of evidence of impairment against you by respectfully declining to perform FST’s, respectfully declining to consent to a search of your vehicle, asserting your constitutional rights to remain silent and to enjoy the assistance of a lawyer, declining to waive any constitutional right, not “confessing” or “admitting” to any alcohol or drug consumption (think: remain silent), and being polite toward the police officer(s) at all times. Knowing the law and understanding “impaired to the slightest degree” can help you defeat a DUI charge.

Penalties for a conviction of DUI – Impaired to the Slightest Degree in Arizona include, at a minimum, the following:

  • Approx. $1,510 in fines and fees, plus the “cost of incarceration”;
  • 10 days in jail, 9 suspended upon successful completion of alcohol screening and assessment and recommended counseling (you must serve “one day” of jail)*;
  • Home detention and continuous alcohol monitoring may be available for any time in jail in excess of one day;
  • Probation up to five (5) years long and costs associated therewith;
  • Alcohol and/or drug screening and assessment and counseling;
  • Community service hours are possible;
  • Cost of incarceration can be reduced or eliminated;
  • SR22 insurance is possible;
  • Ignition interlock device is required for one (1) year but can be reduced to six (6) months and/or eliminated for medical or employment with continuous alcohol monitoring; and
  • Other MVD penalties on your driving privileges (see below).

*Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: Always use an Arizona MVD certified counselor!

Some of the new laws for Arizona DUI’s include home detention, continuous alcohol monitoring, reduced jail in favor of ignition interlock devices, one day of jail instead of 24 consecutive hours, jail instead of prison for aggravated DUI probation cases.

DUI by Blood Alcohol Concentration: 0.08%, 0.15%, and 0.20%

Another type of DUI in Arizona is not based on whether the prosecution can prove impairment. Rather, it is based on the existence of alcohol in your system by way of scientific testing. There are three (3) threshold amounts of alcohol by law: 0.08%, 0.15%, and 0.20% or more. First, a DUI – 0.08% or More charge is based on scientific testing of your blood. If you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, the police will request from you one of the following: blood, breath, or urine. (A urine test is more common in drug cases than in alcohol cases.) Under Arizona’s Admin Per Se / Implied Consent laws, you are required to provide the sample of your blood, breath, or urine. If you refused to provide a sample, your driving privilege will be revoked for one (1) year, even if you are not guilty of a DUI! Plus, the police can still obtain a search warrant, strap you down to a chair, and withdraw your blood without your consent.

Practical tip from Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC: You have a legal right to request that an independent sample of your blood, breath, or urine be preserved for future testing by a scientific expert of your choice! The results of an independent test can sometimes dispute the veracity of the government’s test results.

Penalties for DUI – 0.08% or More convictions are identical to the penalties for a DUI – Impaired to the Slightest Degree (see above). Penalties for a DUI – 0.15% or More conviction are higher. Check out the DUI section of our website for more information. Penalties for a DUI – 0.20% or More conviction are even higher. Check out the DUI section of our website for more information.

DUI by Drugs: Strict Liability

DUI cases are not always about alcohol. Sometimes, a DUI charge is for having an illegal drug in your system. The most important thing to understand about DUI – Drugs cases is that proof of impairment is not required! That’s why I refer to DUI – Drugs cases as “strict liability” cases. If you have THC (active ingredient of marijuana) in your system (including in your urine), or any metabolite of THC, and you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle, you are guilty of a DUI. You do not have to be impaired. In fact, even if you have an illegal drug in your system that improves your driving, you are still guilty of DUI. Why? Because impairment is not an element of the DUI – Drugs crime under A.R.S. section 28-1381(A)(3). DUI – Drugs cases also have similar penalties to DUI – Impaired to the Slightest Degree, although there are some variations, most notably a more severe suspension of your driving privileges.

Non-Criminal Penalties: MVD and Your Drivers License

If you think the criminal system is all you have to worry about in a DUI case, think again. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department, or MVD, is going to attack your driving privileges. If you test positive for a BAC greater than 0.08% or any illegal drug, your driving privileges will be suspended for at least 90 days. If you are convicted of DUI – Drugs, your driving privileges are revoked for 1 year. If you are under 21 years old, your consequences are far more severe. There are several complicated statutes that allow for variations of suspensions, including shorter suspensions, restricted driving permits, ignition interlock device requirements, and more.

How We Help Our Clients

Our legal services cover everything in your DUI case. We handle all criminal court proceedings, negotiations with prosecutions, constitution challenges, and we represent you in your MVD proceedings. MVD proceedings are non-criminal, often referred to as “civil” or “administrative” proceedings.

However, you still retain many important rights in those hearings – rights that we vigorously protect. Perhaps most importantly, prosecutors in Arizona know that we are trial lawyers. We don’t just show up, beg for a plea offer, and give up on your case. We educate our clients about their choices, obtain the best possible resolution for them, and ultimately, if the case is worth challenging, we go to trial. We have serious jury trial experience in cases involving criminal charges of murder, sex crimes, major drugs charges (transportation/sale), aggravated assault, aggravated felony DUI, misdemeanor DUI, and more.

We offer free (no cost, no obligation) consultations on all criminal cases. For more information about our DUI defense services, visit the DUI section of our website.

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