DUI is the acronym for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Due to the severity of the potential consequences, Arizona has some of the harshest laws in the country for drunk driving. However, a first time DUI offender will typically receive lighter penalties than someone who is convicted of their second DUI.
What happens when you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI?
Picture this: it’s a holiday weekend and you had a handful of beers at your brother’s cookout, or a few glasses of wine with some old friends from college. You get behind the wheel and head home. Since it’s a holiday weekend, police have set up drunk driving checkpoints around the city, and all drivers, including you, are now being asked to take a field sobriety test or submit to a breathalyzer test. Maybe a cop saw you driving a little funny – taking turns too wide, or driving too fast or too slow – and now you’ve been pulled over. Now what?
Arizona law requires you to submit to a chemical test if pulled over and asked by a law enforcement officer who has reasonable belief that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you refuse to take this test, you could lose your license for a period of time up to 12 months and be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car.
If your driving is impaired due to drugs or alcohol, or if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher within two hours of driving, this is enough to be charged with a DUI.
If law enforcement determines that you are driving while impaired, you can be arrested and spend the night locked in jail.
What happens for your first DUI offense?
If the state decides to issue a formal charge for DUI against you, you may end up going to court and appearing before a judge, where you could face a DUI conviction. Alternatively, after your DUI arrest, your attorney may speak with prosecutors to work out a plea agreement. Sometimes, this approach is preferential because it avoids court costs and allows you to move on with your life.
For first time DUI offenders, there are a variety of potential criminal consequences. You can face between 24 hours and 6 months of jail time. You can face monetary penalties beginning at $1,250.00. You can have your license suspended for 90 to 360 days. You may be ordered to complete community service and install an ignition interlock device on your car. You may also be required to go to DUI school and complete alcohol education as a condition, as well as attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel.
If you are convicted of an extreme DUI, which is when you have a BAC level of 0.15 or above, you can face harsher penalties – even as a first time offender. The monetary penalty for an extreme DUI conviction is $2,500.00 and the minimum jail time is 30 days. You will also be required to complete an alcohol education program and community service.
In addition to the potential legal consequences, you will have to deal with your auto insurance company. Your insurance policy premiums may increase significantly based on the imposition of SR-22 insurance by the Motor Vehicle Department. If you have a felony conviction on your record, you may lose your job and have difficulty finding another job. You can lose professional licenses such as your law or medical license. Other rights, such as your right to own a firearm or your right to vote may be negatively impacted as well.
Can I make a defense against a DUI?
An experienced defense attorney will work hard to provide the best possible defense. Field tests can be challenged. Was the chemical breath testing device working properly? Was the sample properly tested/analyzed? Was there any contamination in the lab or in the sample itself? Did the officer administering the test provide you with all your constitutionally guaranteed protections? These are questions your attorney may ask. Your attorney will discuss the facts of the situation with you and present you with your options for a legal defense. However, the best way to avoid a DUI conviction is to avoid getting behind the wheel if you have been drinking. Call a taxi, an Uber or get a sober friend to drive you home. It is never worth the risk.
Related: Frightening Facts about DUI