Driving under influence (DUI/DWI) in AZ is a serious offence. Understand the implications, your rights the hearing process and legal counsel
Driving under influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI) is an offence committed when a driver operates a vehicle after the consumption of alcohol or drugs or other intoxicants. Increased alcohol levels in the driver’s blood lead to diminished mental and motor reactions which, in turn, reduce the driver's ability to control the vehicle. This significantly increases the risk of the driver committing errors of judgment and often results in accidents causing severe injuries and even death.
In Arizona, as in the rest of the US, drunk driving is the single largest cause of motor vehicle related fatalities and accounts for an alarmingly high 40% to 50% of the total number of motor vehicle related deaths every year.
REGULATIONS FOR DUI/DWI IN ARIZONA
In Arizona, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is set at 0.08% for drivers over 21 years of age and it is set at 0.02% for those under 21. For commercial drivers, the limit is set at 0.04%. Having BAC of over 0.15 or more is classified as a misdemeanor criminal conviction (extreme DUI). Aggravated DUI is when a person whose privilege to drive or driver license has been suspended, revoked, cancelled or refused is caught under influence of alcohol or drugs. This also includes a third or more violation within five years after first conviction or when driving accompanied by an under 15 year old in the vehicle.
Having an Arizona license automatically provides your consent to be tested if stopped by a law enforcement officer, while driving. This is the law of “implied consent” and can be used by the officer to test you if you are stopped on the suspicion of drunk driving, either through a breathalyser test or by an actual blood test to check the BAC. Refusing to take the chemical test will result in your license suspended or denied for twelve months for first offense, or for two years for a second or more refusals within a period of eighty-four months.
Points will be added to your driving record and your license will be suspended or revoked, if you convicted of DUI/DWI. The number of points assessed, depend on the severity of the offense and the number of times you have been convicted for it.
ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS OVER 21:
If you are over 21 years old, and are caught with BAC higher than the set limit of 0.08%, you may be subjected to criminal actions in addition to administrative actions. If the DUI/DWI incident you are involved in is subjected to criminal action, it is recommended that you get in touch with a DUI/DWI lawyer as they are experts at handling such incidents and can offer you the best advice.
- The first offense is treated as a Class 1 Misdemeanor and may result in imprisonment for minimum 10 days (not eligible for suspension or probation) and minimum $250 fine. Also, if convicted for a first offense BAC or DWI (BAC over 0.08%) or for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID):
- You may have to undertake community restitution.
- There is an additional $500 charge to be paid each into in the prison construction and operations fund and the public safety equipment fund.
- The second offense or two offenses in seven years is treated as a Class A Misdemeanor and may result in imprisonment for 90 days (30 days have to be successive) which is not eligible for suspension or probation and minimum $500 fine. Also, if convicted for the second offense of DWI, DUID or BAC:
- Your driving privilege will be revoked for one year.
- You may have to undertake 30 hours of community restitution.
- There is an additional $1250 charge to be paid each into in the prison construction and operations fund and the public safety equipment fund.
- The third offense or three offenses in seven years is treated as a Class 4 Felony and may result in imprisonment for minimum four months and up to a $150,000.00 fine. Also, if convicted for the third offense of DWI, DUID or BAC:
- Your license will be revoked for three years.
- Conviction for extreme DUI is treated as a Class 1 Misdemeanor and may result in imprisonment of minimum 30 consecutive days (45 days if BAC is 0.20 or more) and a minimum $250 fine ($500 if BAC is 0.20 or more). 8 points will be added to your driving record. Additional $250 as assessment also has to be paid. You may have to undertake community restitution. There is an additional $1000 charge to be paid each into in the prison construction and operations fund and the public safety equipment fund.
A second offense of extreme DUI within 7 years will result in imprisonment of minimum 120 days (60 days have to be consecutive), not eligible for suspension or probation. You may have to undertake 30 hours of community restitution; your privilege to drive will be revoked for one year. There is an additional $1250 charge to be paid each into in the prison construction and operations fund and the public safety equipment fund.
- Conviction under aggravated DUI will result in imprisonment for minimum four months that are not eligible for suspension or probation. A second or more violation within seven years will result in imprisonment of minimum 8 years. It also has an extra $250 assessment and minimum $750 fine. There is an additional $1500 charge to be paid each into in the prison construction and operations fund and the public safety equipment fund. The vehicle can also be forfeited.
- As per the law, the court may order a driver’s license to be revoked for a year if he/she possesses or uses drugs while operating the vehicle.
ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS UNDER 21
- If you are convicted under the “minor in possession/other alcohol offenses” law(trying to purchase, possessing or having purchased any intoxicant; or being intoxicated using alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants; or having a BAC higher than 0.02%) while driving, it is classified as a misdemeanor criminal conviction.
- The license may be suspended for 2 years for conviction for those under 20.
- Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to minors if they are convicted of DUI/DWI.
ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLE DRIVERS
If you drive a commercial vehicle and hold a commercial driver license (CDL):
- If you are convicted for your BAC being higher than 0.04% for the first time, you will be disqualified from driving for 60 days. For the second offense in three years, the penalty is for 120 days and 12 months for the third or subsequent offense in three years.
- You will be barred from driving a commercial vehicle for at least three years, if you are convicted for your BAC being higher than 0.04% while transporting hazardous materials.
- Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to commercial drivers for their first and second offenses of DUI/DWI. The other penalties do not apply since they are barred after the second offense.
ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI:
Arizona laws have administrative implications in addition to the criminal laws against DUI/DWI. An officer may arrest a driver if:
- He/she is aged 21 and above and is driving with BAC 0.08% or more.
- He/she is aged below 21 and is driving with BAC 0.02% or more.
- He/she is driving a commercial vehicle with BAC 0.04% or more.
Under this action, if you are arrested for DUI/DWI, the arresting officer will confiscate your Arizona driver license and issue a temporary driving permit and file an AIR (Alcohol Influence Report), complete a notice of license suspension/revocation based on the nature of the offense along with a warrant, if applicable; and send the entire set to the Department of Transportation.
The driver can apply in writing for an administrative hearing within 15 days of the notice of suspension/revocation. It is a good idea to consult a DUI/DWI lawyer beforehand. If the hearing goes against the driver, his license will be suspended or revoked based on his previous seven-year driving record. If he has any alcohol related convictions or suspensions for this seven-year period, his license will be revoked for one year, and if not, then it will be suspended for 30 days. You may be eligible to drive using the Limited Driving Privilege after the 30 days of conviction.
If the administrative hearing goes against the driver, he can ask for a review. He will, however, have to serve the suspension/revocation until the circuit court reaches a verdict. If the verdict is the same as the administrative hearing, then the driver will have to complete the remaining period of his suspension/revocation and then file for reinstatement of the license. If the verdict goes in favour of the driver, then his license will be returned and the suspension/revocation will be cancelled.
If the driver, however, does not request a hearing, then the suspension/revocation begins on the 15th day after the arrest, and is final.
LICENSE REINSTATEMENT AFTER DUI/DWI SUSPENSION/REVOCATION:
If you are convicted of DUI/DWI, it will result in your license being suspended or revoked. This means that your driving privileges will be taken away and you will need to apply for a reinstatement of your license with the Department of Transportation, once the period of suspension or revocation is over. Reinstating a license after a suspension of a year, or revocation will also mean taking the driving tests all over again. These will include the vision test, knowledge test and the road test. If you do not complete the reinstatement requirements, the license will remain suspended or revoked.
- To complete the reinstatement requirements, you must prove that you have successfully completed the state approved traffic survival school reform program (the agency will send the proof to the Driver License Bureau once you have completed the program), pay the reinstatement fee of $20 and maintain proof of financial responsibility for two years from the date of suspension/revocation by filing SR-22, if you are over 21 years old. You may also have to undergo road and vision test.
- Call Motor Vehicle Division for more details on reinstatement fees:
Tucson: (520) 629-9808
Phoenix: (602) 255-0072
Other parts of Arizona: (800) 251-5866
- If you are being convicted, it is mandatory for the court to order an ignition interlock device to be placed for breathalyser tests on any vehicle you drive.
- DUI/DWI has been a major cause of death and injury in our nation and it is our duty to prevent such needless pain and suffering. Simply: If you drink, DON’T DRIVE! If we all follow this rule to the letter - thousands of lives will be saved each year.
- If you have been charged with a DUI/DWI get help from a DUI/DWI Lawyer.
- See also Suspended License, Point System and Traffic Ticket Lawyers.
- In 2002, approximately 8,095 crashes in Arizona were related to alcohol which killed 488 people and thousands more were injured. In 2007, the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles anticipated over 17,000 first-time DUI offenders in 2008.