Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation and Arizona police are aggressive in their pursuit of drunk drivers. First time DUI offenders face a minimum of 24 hours in jail, but can also face jail time up to forty five (45) days and thousands of dollars in fines (A.R.S. 28-1381; A.R.S. 28-1382). With your driving abilities and even your job in jeopardy, it is important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible after arrest. Cliff Hill is an experienced DUI lawyer who knows how to both build the best DUI defense and find the weaknesses in the law enforcement's case that can result in reduced or dismissed charges.
In the US, any blood alcohol content level over 0.08% while driving is illegal and can be charged as a DUI. For a commercial vehicle the level limit is 0.04%. If you are under 21, you can be charged with a DUI for anything over a 0.00% BAC.
Arizona operates with a Zero-Tolerance DUI law, meaning that you can be charged with a DUI even if your BAC is under 0.08%. Any sign of driving impairment that law enforcement officers can detect will count against you.
Once you are stopped by police for suspicious driving, or simpler infractions like expired plates or a broken taillight, the officers only need probable cause to arrest. This can include open containers of alcohol in the car, slurred speech, alcohol noticeable on your breath, or bloodshot eyes.
Driving under the influence of drugs also results in a DUI. This can include driving after taking, or being given, strong pain medications like Vicodin or Percocet, driving under the influence of marijuana, and driving under the influence of any other illegal drugs.
Law enforcement cannot know through a chemical test alone whether you are impaired by drugs. They will instead follow the 12-step “Drug Recognition Expert” evaluation that includes:
- Breath Alcohol Test
- Interview of the Arresting Officer
- Preliminary Examination and First Pulse
- Eye Examination
- Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests
- Vital Signs and Second Pulse
- Dark Room Examinations
- Examination for Muscle Tone
- Check for Injection Sites and Third Pulse
- Subject's Statements and Other Observations
- Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator
- Toxicological Examination
If you legally use medical marijuana, you can still be charged with DUI under certain circumstances where the active metabolite of THC is still in your system or you show signs of impairment.
Drug and Blood-Alcohol Content Levels
In Arizona, the legal BAC is 0.08%. It is illegal to have any illicit drugs in your system, and law enforcement may request a blood, breath , or urine test if they believe you to be impaired. You can still be charged with a DUI for a BAC under 0.08% if law enforcement believes you to be impaired to the slightest degree.
Extreme and Super Extreme DUI
A DUI charge is upgraded to an “Extreme DUI” if you drive with a blood alcohol content level is 0.150% or above. It is upgraded to “Super Extreme” if you drive with a BAC of 0.200% or above.
Both of these charges result in increased penalties
Penalties for a 1st Offense DUI
All DUIs, with the exception of aggravated DUIs, are charged as misdemeanors.
A 1st offense DUI with a blood alcohol level up to 0.149% will result in a minimum of 24 hours of jail time. While the minimum penalty is actually 10 days, it is common to spend 24 hours and substitute a combination of alcohol counseling classes based on the results of your blood alcohol test.
You will also have your driver's license suspended for a minimum of 90 days. In Arizona you have the opportunity to dispute your license suspension, but only have 15 days after being served the notice of suspension by law enforcement to request a hearing. An experience DUI lawyer can help request the hearing and defend you getting your license reinstated.
You will also be required to have an interlock device installed in your car once your license is restored. These devices require you to blow into the tube to test your BAC levels before starting the car, and every 15 minutes while driving. You can also be required to serve hours of community service.
Fines and fees can be significant, and quickly increase with the cost of jail time, counseling, ignition interlock device, and any additional fines. You will also have to pay for your vehicle impoundment, and premiums on your insurance. The total fines and fees can often amount to thousands of dollars.
Penalties for an “Extreme DUI” can result in a jail term of up to 30 days. A “Super Extreme DUI” can result in a jail term of up to 45 days.
In Arizona prior DUI charges can be used against you for 7 years. You can only be charged with a 1st offense DUI if you have never been charged before, or if your last DUI charge was over 7 years ago.
What to do if you are stopped for a DUI
Police must find probable cause to charge you with a DUI. You have rights. Everything you say and do can and will be used against you. You do not need to agree to questioning or car searches.You also do not need to consent to field sobriety tests like the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, or an eye test.
You will be required to take a blood, urine, or breath test if one is requested by a police officer. Under implied consent laws, registering for a driver's license means you have already agreed to take this test if requested. You must take this test within two hours of driving for accurate results.
Refusing to take a blood, urine, or breath test can result in suspension of your driver's license and a fine. You do not have a choice in which type of test you will take.
Contact an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. Not understanding your rights, or not being aware of possible law enforcement mistakes can hurt your case. Problems that can arise with law enforcement mistakes include: unlawful traffic stop, invalid Field Sobriety Test, no or insufficient probable cause for arrest, suspect blood test results, or lack of proof of physical control of the vehicle.