By: Josh Egan
In Arizona, it's illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Generally, you run the risk of being convicted of DUI if you drive:
- while "impaired to the slightest degree" (impairment DUI) by drugs or alcohol
- with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (“per se” alcohol DUI) within two hours of driving (get an estimate of how many drinks it takes)
- with any amount of a drug or its metabolite in your body (per se drug DUI), or
- a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04% or more.
A driver who’s convicted of any of the above offenses is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
Arizona’s “aggravated” DUI law imposes stiffer penalties for certain DUI offenses. A DUI is an aggravated offense when the offender drives under the influence:
- having been convicted of two prior DUIs within the past 84 months (even if the priors weren’t committed in Arizona)
- while the driver's license is suspended for a previous DUI arrest, conviction, or chemical-test refusal
- while someone younger than 15 years old is in the car, or
- after having been ordered by a court to drive only with an ignition interlock device (IID).
A driver convicted of an aggravated DUI for having a passenger younger than 15 years old is guilty of class 6 felony. The other three types of aggravated DUI are class 4 felonies.
Classifications Based on Elevated BAC
Arizona also imposes more several penalties for DUIs involving high BACs. DUIs involving BACs of .15% or more are called “extreme” DUIs. And an offender with a BAC of .20% or greater can be convicted of a “super extreme” DUI.
"Administrative penalties" are those imposed by the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). These penalties are triggered by the arrest and apply even if the defendant's criminal DUI case is later dismissed. For a first DUI, the administrative penalties include:
- Per se alcohol and per se drug DUI. Motorists caught driving with a BAC of .08% or greater) within two hours of driving (.04% or greater for commercial drivers while driving a commercial vehicle or any concentration of drugs in the body while driving or being in actual physical control of their car faces a license suspension for no less than 90 days.
- Chemical-test refusals. Motorists who refuse a chemical test in violation of Arizona’s implied consent law face a one-year administrative suspension of their driving privileges. Motorists who refuse a second time or more within a seven-year period face a two-year administrative suspension of driving privileges.
If you don't request a hearing within 15 days of the arrest, you forfeit your right to challenge the above administrative suspensions.
If your license is suspended for a DUI arrest, you may be eligible for a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work, school, and drug and alcohol screening and treatment centers. To be eligible you must:
- not have caused death or serious physical injury to another person
- not been convicted of DUI or had a chemical-test refusal suspension in the last 84 months, and
- provide satisfactory evidence that you completed an alcohol or drug screening.
If you’re unsure whether you qualify for a restricted license, it’s best to contact a DUI attorney in your area.
"Criminal penalties" are those which a court imposes once a motorist is convicted of DUI. For a first DUI, the criminal penalties include:
- Standard first DUI. Generally, drivers convicted of a first DUI must serve at least ten consecutive days in jail and pay fines and assessment of at least $1,250. If the violation involved alcohol (as opposed to drugs), the driver must install an IID, which remains in the car for at least 12 months following the completion of the license suspension.
- Extreme DUI. An extreme DUI is a class 1 misdemeanor. Convicted drivers must serve at least 30 consecutive days in jail and pay a fine and assessment of at least $2,500. As with a standard first DUI, there’s a 12-month IID requirement for an extreme DUI conviction.
- Super extreme DUI. A super extreme DUI is a class 1 misdemeanor. Drivers convicted of a super extreme DUI face at least 45 consecutive days in jail, fines and assessments of at least $2,750 in assessments, and a 12-month IID requirement.
- Aggravated DUI. Drivers convicted of aggravated DUI must serve either ten to 45 days in jail or four to eight months in prison, depending on the type of aggravated DUI conviction. Convicted drivers also face at least $4,000 in fines and assessments, a mandatory 12-month license suspension, and if the DUI involved alcohol, there’s a 24-month IID requirement. All drivers convicted of aggravated DUI must complete drug screening and treatment; offenders who don’t comply risk being sent to prison for up to two years.
For some DUI first offenders, Arizona law permits judges to reduce the minimum jail sentence. A judge can reduce the minimum jail time to one day (instead of ten days) for standard first offenders who complete court-ordered alcohol and drug screening and treatment. And a judge can reduce the minimum jail time for drivers convicted of extreme DUI to nine days (instead of 30 days) and super extreme DUI to 14 days (instead of 45 days) if the driver maintains an IID for a period of 12 months following conviction.
Also, check out our article on the actual costs of a first DUI.