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Understanding Arizona Statute 28-1381: Driving or actual physical control while under the influence

Understanding Arizona DUI Laws: What You Need to Know

When it comes to DUI regulations across the United States, being well-informed about the unique legal nuances within each state is crucial. Arizona’s DUI laws, for instance, present distinctive aspects that every driver should comprehend. This comprehensive guide outlines Arizona’s DUI laws and provides insights into the potential outcomes if you find yourself facing charges in the state.

Arizona DUI Laws Explained

Arizona’s DUI laws make it unlawful to operate a vehicle or be in physical control of one while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, a DUI charge can be levied against drivers with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. However, specific circumstances, such as driving a commercial vehicle, could result in a DUI even with a lower BAC.

Arizona maintains a rigorous stance on DUIs, categorizing the offense as akin to a “violent crime.” Consequently, the penalties for a first-time DUI offense in Arizona might appear severe compared to states like California, where mandatory jail time is not imposed even for repeat DUI offenders.

The following sections delve into these distinctions in greater detail.

Defining DUI in Arizona

Arizona’s DUI definition, in accordance with ARS § 28-1381, places special emphasis on the act of operating a vehicle while influenced by substances, whether legal or illicit. In the context of Arizona law, being “under the influence” means being significantly impaired by a substance to the extent that operating a vehicle safely becomes impossible.

It’s essential to grasp this emphasis, as a DUI charge can be issued even if you’re not actively driving. Any identifiable attempt to control your vehicle, despite being unable to do so safely, can lead to a DUI charge.

Non-Driving DUI Charges in Arizona

In Arizona, the concept of “actual physical control” is pivotal. Even if you’re not actively driving, engaging in actions that exhibit such control over your vehicle violates Arizona’s DUI laws. This control is established when you’re deemed the primary individual in charge of the vehicle. Actions like turning on headlights, adjusting windows, inserting keys into the ignition, or any action that demonstrates control can lead to a DUI charge.

The NHTSA outlines several indicators of impairment, commonly referred to as “impairment cues.” These cues encompass behaviors like tightly gripping the steering wheel, driving with a closely positioned face to the windshield, slouching in the seat, and maintaining a fixed stare straight ahead. Certain officers regularly observe the facial expressions of drivers in opposing traffic, seeking signs of impairment.

Moreover, it’s important to note that a DUI charge can still apply if your BAC is above the legal limit within two hours of operating a vehicle. This implies that being at home after having driven an hour ago could still result in charges if your BAC exceeds the legal limit.

Understanding “Under the Influence” in Arizona

In Arizona, being “under the influence” refers to impairment caused by substances to a degree that it hampers your ability to operate a vehicle safely. This impairment is typically gauged based on reaching or surpassing a specific BAC threshold. The standard BAC limit is 0.08%, but it’s reduced to 0.04% for individuals driving commercial vehicles.

Arizona’s Zero Tolerance “Not A Drop” Law

Arizona’s “not a drop” law, often termed a baby DUI, embodies the state’s unwavering stance against underage driving and drinking. If you’re under 21 and operate a vehicle with a BAC higher than 0.00%, you can be charged with a DUI.

Even consuming minimal amounts of alcohol, like a few sips of beer or wine, can result in a detectable BAC level, making it relatively easy for underage drivers to breach this law and face legal repercussions.

The Arizona “Shelter Rule” Defense

In recognition of the potential danger posed by intoxicated drivers attempting to reach a place of safety, Arizona introduced the “Shelter Rule” law. This law provides a temporary shelter defense against a DUI charge. Essentially, if you pull over or enter a parking lot with the intention of avoiding drunk driving, you might argue that you’ve relinquished physical control of the vehicle.

Factors such as your position behind the wheel, the presence of keys in the ignition, and the time of day play a role in determining whether you were in actual physical control. The more these factors lean in favor of relinquishment of control, the lower the likelihood of a DUI conviction.

Arizona DUI Penalties

While most DUI offenses in Arizona are categorized as misdemeanors, the penalties remain severe, even for first-time offenders. Penalties escalate when moving from a simple DUI to an extreme or aggravated DUI.

Aggravated DUI Penalties

An aggravated DUI in Arizona is classified as a felony and carries stringent consequences. You could face an aggravated DUI charge if you:

  • Are arrested for DUI with a suspended, revoked, or canceled license.
  • Commit a third DUI offense within 84 months of a prior conviction.
  • Commit a DUI offense with a passenger under 15 years old.
  • Have an ignition interlock device (IID) but refuse a BAC test.

Penalties for aggravated DUI include up to two years in prison, a one-year driver’s license suspension, mandatory enrollment in an alcohol education program, installation of a certified IID, and compulsory community service.

Extreme DUI Penalties

An extreme DUI pertains to drivers with a BAC level exceeding 0.15%. First-time offenders face a mandatory minimum jail term of 30 days without probation or suspended sentencing. Additionally, a minimum fine of $2,500 is applicable. IID installation and participation in an alcohol screening, education, and treatment program are required. Despite its severity, an extreme DUI is still classified as a misdemeanor.

For subsequent offenses, penalties intensify. Your license is automatically revoked for a year, and a minimum jail sentence of 120 days is mandated. Alongside the obligatory IID and alcohol program, community service becomes an additional requirement.

Repeat DUI Offense Penalties in Arizona

Subsequent DUI offenses in Arizona result in progressively harsher penalties. The following chart illustrates how charges evolve along with associated punishments:

Offense Misdemeanor or Felony Jail Time Fine Mandatory IID License Suspension Alcohol Education Probation Community Service
First-Time Class 1 Misdemeanor Minimum 10 days in jail Minimum $1,250 Yes No Yes Up to 5 years Yes
Second-Time Class 1 Misdemeanor Minimum 90 days in jail Minimum $3,000 Yes 12 months Yes Up to 5 years Yes
Third-Time Class 4 Felony 4 months to 2 years in jail $4,000 to $150,000 Yes 3 years Yes Up to 10 years Yes

It’s essential to note that the frequency of DUI convictions within a seven-year span directly affects the severity of subsequent charges.

Implied Consent and Refusal of Testing in Arizona

In line with ARS § 28-1321, the “implied consent affidavit” is served to any driver suspected of a DUI offense who refuses or is unable to undergo testing for blood alcohol concentration or drug content. This affidavit holds the same weight as a DUI citation.

As a result, all drivers are required to submit to testing. A first-time refusal results in a one-year driving privilege suspension, while a second refusal within 84 months leads to a two-year suspension.

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