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DUI General Information

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Driving Under The Influence – Arizona DUI Laws

An Arizona DUI case will be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense depending upon the particular facts of the case, the status of the defendant’s driving privileges and prior criminal history. Arizona’s DUI offenses are set forth in Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 28-1381, 28-1382, and 28-1383.

Misdemeanor Offenses: A.R.S. §§ 28-1381 and 28-1382

(1) DUI: A.R.S. § 28-1381(A)(1)
“DUI” means “Driving under the Influence” of intoxicating liquor (or drugs). The DUI charge involves a law enforcement officer’s suspicion the DUI suspect’s ability to drive is impaired. Although evidence of the subject’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (“BAC”) is relevant to the DUI charge, this offense does not require proof of a chemical test or evidence of the suspect’s BAC. This charge can be based solely upon the suspect’s (1) driving behavior, (2) physical appearance and performance on a field sobriety test, and (3) verbal admissions.

(2) DWI: A.R.S. § 28-1381(A)(2)
“DWI” stands for “Driving While Intoxicated,” which requires that the accused have a BAC of .08 or greater within two hours of driving a vehicle. Unlike the DUI charge, the DWI charge requires a blood, breath or urine test.

(3) Extreme DWI: A.R.S. § 28-1382 (BAC .15 or Higher)
The Extreme DWI charge differs from the DWI charge in only two respects. First, the Extreme DWI charge requires that the accused have a BAC of .15 or higher, within two hours of driving. Second, the punishment for an Extreme DWI is much greater than for a DUI or a DWI offense


(4) “Super” Extreme DWI: A.R.S. § 28-1382 (BAC .20 or Higher)
The “Super” Extreme DWI requires that the accused have a BAC of .20 or greater, within two hours of driving. The punishment for a “Super” Extreme DUI is greater than for an Extreme DUI offense.

Felony Offenses DUI – A.R.S. § 28-1383
An “aggravated” or “felony” DUI offense is a DUI, DWI or Extreme DWI, committed:

(1) While the accused’s driver’s license is suspended, restricted, revoked, canceled, etc.;

(2) If, within a period of 84 months (7 years), the accused commits a third or subsequent DUI, DWI or Extreme DUI; or (remove)

(3) While a passenger less than fifteen years of age is in the vehicle; or

(4) While the accused is required to equip a motor vehicle with a certified ignition interlock device the accused operates a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device.

In Arizona, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drive or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while there is any alcohol in the person’s body. A.R.S. § 4-244(33). Simply put, the law punishes the presence of alcohol in the under-21 person’s body without regard to whether the person’s ability to drive was affected even in the slightest degree. And, if convicted, the under-21 driver faces a two-year license suspension. It should also be noted that under-21 drivers, in addition to being charged with underage DUI, are frequently simultaneously charged with violations of A.R.S. §§ 28-1381(A)(1) and (2).

Because the penalties and consequences for persons under 21 are so severe, it is important to have an experienced, knowledgeable and aggressive Arizona DUI attorney on your side. The transgressions we make in our early days can affect us for years to come.

In DUI cases, the state’s objective is to collect evidence which tends to establish the suspect was either driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while “under the influence” or while “impaired.” The state’s proof usually falls into one or more of the following categories: (1) driving signs of impairment; (2) physical signs of impairment; (3) verbal admissions; and (4) chemical evidence.

Signs of Impairment:

• Turning with a wide radius
• Tires on center or lane marker
• Straddling center of lane marker
• Erratic braking
• “Appearing to be drunk”
• Driving into oncoming or crossing traffic
• Nearly striking objects or vehicles
• Signaling inconsistently
• Weaving
• Responding slowly to traffic signals
• Swerving
• Stopping inappropriately
• Speed more than 10 mph below limit
• Turning abruptly or illegally
• Stopping without cause in traffic lane
• Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
• Following too closely
• Headlights off
• Drifting
• High beams left on inappropriately

Physical Signs of Impairment:
• Bloodshot, watery eyes
• Swaying
• Slurred speech
• Leaning on car for support
• Odor of alcohol
• Combative, argumentative attitude
• Fumbling with wallet while trying to retrieve license
• Disheveled clothing
• Failure to comprehend the officer’s questions
• Disorientation as to time and place
• Staggering when exiting the vehicle
• Inability to follow directions

Verbal Admissions:
• “I’ve only had seven beers since six o’clock.”
• “I know I shouldn’t have been driving.”

Chemical Testing: Blood, Breath and Urine

When you are pulled over and the police officer suspects you of a DUI, there are certain things that the law requires you to do, and certain things that are voluntary. The only thing that the law requires you to do is exit your vehicle if requested, and submit to a chemical testing of your blood, breath or urine. Everything else, such as answering questions, performing field sobriety tests or blowing into a hand-held preliminary testing device (PBT) is not mandatory.

Once someone is placed under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are usually told they must submit to a chemical test. According to Arizona’s “implied consent” law, the person arrested is required to take a blood or breath test if the arrest is alcohol-related, or a blood or urine test if the arrest is drug-related. In Arizona, a DUI suspect has the right to consult with a lawyer prior to deciding whether or not to submit to the chemical test.

An experienced DUI defense attorney will determine whether or not the chemical test was properly administered and the sample properly analyzed. The State of Arizona sets forth the requirements for proper chemical testing. When the testing protocol is not followed or when the proper standards are violated or ignored, the test result may be scientifically unreliable, and, thus, should not form the basis of a DUI/DWI conviction or an MVD suspension.


Q. If I’m stopped after drinking, what should I do?

Always be polite and respectful. The best thing to say is “I would like to speak with an attorney.”

You have the right to speak with an attorney as soon as practical. However, the police will seldom give you an opportunity to contact an attorney at the scene. Consequently, it’s best to politely refuse the roadside field sobriety tests (FSTs). In Arizona, upon being arrested, there is a right to consult with counsel before deciding whether to submit to blood, breath or urine test, if doing so does not unreasonably interfere with the timely administration of your test.

There is a wide range of FSTs, including the walk and turn, finger-to-nose, one-leg stand, eye test called “horizontal gaze nystagmus,” alphabet recitation, Rhomberg modified, fingers count, and others. However, in Arizona, most officers will use a battery of the three standardized field tests.

Unlike the chemical test, where refusal to submit may have serious consequences, you are not legally required to perform any of the FSTs. The reality is that many officers will have already made up their minds to arrest before administering the field tests. The tests are designed to provide the officer with additional evidence to prove the suspect was impaired. Thus, in most cases a polite refusal of the FSTs is appropriate.

Q. Should I agree to take a chemical test? What happens if I don’t?

In Arizona, there are serious consequences of “refusing” to submit to a blood, breath or urine test. Generally, there are three adverse results:

1. Your driver’s license will be suspended by the MVD for a period of twelve months. This can and often will be true even if the criminal charges are subsequently dismissed or you are found not guilty of the DUI charge.

2. The fact of refusal can be introduced into evidence as “consciousness of guilt” in your criminal court case. Of course, the defense is free to offer other reasons for the alleged refusal. A.R.S. § 28-1388(D).

3. Following a “refusal” to submit to testing, the police will often obtain a search warrant authorizing them to draw your blood over your objection. When this happens, the police end up obtaining the blood alcohol evidence they wanted and the suspect often is stuck with the twelve-month license suspension for refusing the officer’s initial request.

Q. Can I choose the type of chemical test?

In Arizona, the police choose the test: breath, blood or urine. Furthermore, they can require that you submit to more than one test. If you refuse at any time, even after giving a valid sample, you could still lose your license for refusing a subsequent request.

Analysis of a blood sample is potentially the most accurate. Breath testing machines are susceptible to a number of problems often rendering them unreliable. The least accurate by far, however, is urinalysis.

Q. The police took my driver’s license, issued me a citation to appear in court, and served me with a pink and yellow temporary license! How can they do that if I’m presumed innocent?

In Arizona, the Administrative “per se” statute provides for immediate confiscation of the suspect’s driver’s license if the breath test result is above the .08 statutory legal limit or if you “refuse” to submit to testing.

The suspect driver must request an MVD hearing within 15 days of his or her arrest (or the date he or she was served with a suspension notice). If you are deemed to have waived your right to a hearing, your suspension begins immediately following the expiration of the fifteen-day grace period. Thus, you should always visit an attorney immediately after you are cited.

Q. The officer confiscated my license. Is my license still valid?

Upon your arrest for DUI and providing a blood or breath sample over .08 BAC or refusing to take the breath test, the State of Arizona Motor Vehicle Division initiates administrative proceedings to suspend and/or revoke your driving privileges. You are issued a temporary license, which advises you must request a hearing to contest the action within 15 days or you will lose your right to do so. Upon requesting a hearing, the temporary license remains valid pending further action to be taken at or subsequent to the scheduled hearing.

Q. My breath/blood alcohol reading was below the legal limit.payday loans Do I have anything to worry about?

Possibly. In the State of Arizona, even if your reading is below the statutory limit or there are no blood or breath alcohol results, the police and prosecuting attorney can and will proceed if they believe there is sufficient evidence to prove your ability to drive was affected by your consumption of alcohol. This opinion is usually based upon the officer’s observations of your driving, any field sobriety tests conducted, and any other incriminating evidence, including your own statements. Remember, the officer arrested you because he or she felt that your ability to drive was impaired, so charges may still be a very real possibility.payday loans A.R.S. § 28-1381(A)(1)(remove this).

Q. Shouldn’t I just plead guilty if my test results were over the legal limit?

No. High BAC test results are often completely irrelevant in formulating a winning defense. For example, if the officer violates your constitutional rights by stopping your vehicle without legally sufficient cause, the court is required to suppress all evidence seized subsequent to the stop, including the blood or breath test results. Furthermore, there may have been one or more errors during the chemical testing process that can only be uncovered after carefully investigating and analyzing the testing protocol and scientific results with a toxicologist or criminalist experienced in handling DUI cases. Alcohol testing is not always accurate. Procedural errors, faulty or improperly maintained equipment, and improper testing methods are always a possibility in a DUI case. If you simply plead guilty based on the test results alone, you may be giving up your opportunity for a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you.

Q. If my license gets suspended, can I get a permit to drive to work or school?

The answer varies depending on your individual driving history and whether you submitted to a test of your breath or blood. You can usually obtain a restricted license to drive to and from work, school or medical appointments, if you did not cause an accident resulting in physical injury, have had no prior offenses, and did not refuse the test. Once you have completed a portion of the suspension and have otherwise complied with certain requirements set forth by the Motor Vehicle Department, you may be eligible for a restricted permit. However, there are many limits on obtaining a restricted license, and it is crucial that an experienced DUI attorney review the particular circumstances of your case.

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