Written by Canterbury Law Group

First Offense DUI In Arizona & Fighting A Charge

First DUI Offense In Arizona

Arizona law says it is an illegal act for a person to be in actual physical control or to drive a motorized vehicle when they are under the influence of a vapor releaser containing a substance that is toxic, a drug, or an intoxicating liquor, or indeed, a combination of the above.

A.R.S. §28-1381 defines drunk driving laws in the state of Arizona and they forbid driving when you are under the influence of an intoxicant or when the vehicle operator is even slightly impaired. Arizona has a reputation for being one of the toughest DUI law states. Read on to learn what you can expect the penalties to include when a driver faces an initial DUI offense.

Penalties for A First DUI In Arizona

A person may be found guilty of DUI in Arizona when they have a Blood Alcohol Content in excess of 0.08% and are driving or are in control of a motor vehicle. They may can be charged with a DUI in circumstances where they are impaired by any number of drugs or alcohol. These include OTC medications as well as legal medications issued by prescription. These are a Class 1 misdemeanor and are subject to these penalties:

  • A jail sentence of a minimum of twenty-four hours and a maximum up to and including six months. Technically, the minimum is ten days jail time but there is an option of having nine of those days suspended.
  • A maximum of $2,500 in total fees and fines with a minimum of $250.
  • From 90 up to 360 days of driver’s license suspension.
  • An Ignition Interlock Device being installed
  • Three years’ probation is a possibility.
  • Community service hours is a possibility.
  • Complete drug/alcohol assessment and perhaps adult education class attendance.

Criminal and Administrative Penalties for DUI

Arizona has what is known as Criminal Penalties as well as Administrative Penalties. Here is a breakdown of them:

  • Administrative license suspension is applicable for 90 days for drivers arrested for a first offense. This must be dealt with as a part of your DUI defense.
  • The driver may install an ignition interlock device it if an agreement can be met so their driver’s license can be retained.
  • In Arizona, drivers following a DUI arrest are required to take part in substance and alcohol abuse screening processes.
  • There is a seven-year lookback period for previous DUI convictions. This means a conviction will be on the record for seven years and will be considered if there are further DUI charges.
  • Although there are likely to be additional costs for sentence completion, the surcharges, fees and fines amount to about $1,600.

Source: Brian Sloan. “Arizona DUI First Offense Consequences: Law Offices Brian Douglas Sloan.” Brian Sloanhttps://www.arizdui.com/arizona-dui-defense/consequences-of-a-first-offense-dui-in-arizona/.

What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove for a DUI Conviction?

In a DUI case, the prosecution must prove the person being charged (the “defendant”):

  • drove a vehicle, and
  • was “under the influence”—meaning the person was either impaired or had a prohibited amount of drugs or alcohol in his or her body.

Many DUI defenses target one of these two components (also called “elements”) because the prosecution must prove both to get a conviction. The defenses available to a DUI defendant depend, to some extent, on state DUI laws. But this article gives an overview of some DUI defenses that are available in most states.

DUI Defenses related to the “Driving” Element

In some states, you can’t be convicted of a DUI unless you were actually driving a vehicle. So, if you were asleep in a parked vehicle in one of these states when police arrived, you probably have a good defense.

But most states don’t require proof of actual driving for a DUI conviction. All the prosecution needs to prove is that you were in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while intoxicated. In other words, you can be found guilty even if you weren’t caught behind the wheel with the car in motion.

However, whether a driver was in “actual physical control” of a vehicle is a fact-specific question. If the facts show the arrested person was unlikely to actually put the vehicle in motion, there’s a good chance the DUI charge won’t stick.

For example, if a drunk person was asleep inside a vehicle but didn’t have the keys, it might be hard for the prosecution to convince a jury that the person was in actual physical control of the vehicle.

DUI Defenses Related to Driver Intoxication or Impairment

Evidence of driver intoxication comes in various forms. However, in many cases, there are chemical test results showing how much alcohol and drugs the driver had in his or her system. It’s also common for the police officer who made the arrest to testify at trial regarding observation of the driver’s impairment.

Challenging the Accuracy of Alcohol and Drug Test Results

Because it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (.05% or more in Utah)—called a “per se DUI”—chemical test results alone can prove the intoxication component a DUI charge.

When challenging alcohol- or drug-test results, you’re typically either saying the results are unreliable because of some flaw in the testing procedure or represent an inaccurate measurement of the amount of drugs or alcohol at the actual time of driving.

Experienced DUI attorneys know exactly what to look for when assessing a case for these types of defenses. Defenses related to chemical test results might also require the testimony of an expert witness who can explain why the results of the state’s tests are unreliable.

Challenging the Officer’s Testimony About Signs of Intoxication

For proving a DUI based on actual impairment (as opposed to the amount of drugs or alcohol in the driver’s system), the officer’s observations can be an important part of the prosecution’s case. An officer’s observations of impairment might include:

  • poor (field sobriety test) FST performance
  • the odor of alcohol
  • bad driving
  • bizarre behavior
  • slurred speech, and
  • bloodshot eyes.

To beat a DUI charge, the defense might need to challenge the significance of an officer’s observations. It just depends on the circumstances, but it can be difficult to convince jurors that the officer’s conclusions about the driver’s intoxication were wrong.

Introduce Witnesses Who Saw Things Differently

One way to challenge an officer’s observations is to bring in witnesses who were present when you were arrested and saw things differently than the officer. Unfortunately, in many cases, there aren’t any witnesses. Or, if your witness was a passenger in your car, the prosecution might argue that your witness is biased.

Offer Valid Explanations for Your Appearance and Behavior

For some officer observations, you might be able to provide an explanation—other than intoxication—for what happened. For example, fatigue and physical disabilities can lead to poor FST performance. And bloodshot eyes can be caused by allergies and other irritants.

When Field Sobriety Tests are Unreliable

In challenging the accuracy of FST results, attorney look for ways in which the officer might have failed to follow protocol in administering the tests. For example, some of the tests must be performed on a flat surface. So, if the driver was made to perform FST on a sloped road shoulder, the defense can use this fact to cast doubt on the officer’s ultimate conclusions.

DUI Defenses Related to Illegal Traffic Stops and Unlawful Arrests

When police don’t use proper arrest procedures, it can sometimes provide you with a good defense to a DUI charge. Defenses related to arrest procedures typically involve arguing that—because police didn’t follow the law when stopping or arresting you—the judge should throw certain evidence out.

Generally, police need probable cause to stop your vehicle, and if they’re going to arrest you for a DUI, they need probable cause for that too.

Illegal Traffic Stops in DUI Cases

For the traffic stop, police have probable cause if there’s reason to believe the driver or someone else in the vehicle has broken the law. (DUI checkpoints and roadblocks are, however, an exception to the probable cause rule.) Basically, any traffic violation will suffice. But if the police pull you over without a legitimate reason, a judge is likely to say all the evidence subsequently obtained is inadmissible in court.

No Probable Cause for DUI Arrest

A valid traffic stop doesn’t necessarily make a DUI arrest proper—the officer must also have reason to believe the motorist was in violation of the state’s DUI laws. Probable cause for a DUI arrest usually comes from the officer’s observations and sometimes breath-test results.

Both forms of evidence can be tricky to challenge. An officer might say you performed poorly on FSTs, smelled of alcohol, and had slurred speech. For most judges, that would be enough evidence for probable cause. And in most situations, breathalyzer results showing your BAC was over the limit are going to make challenging probable cause an uphill battle.

Failure to Give Miranda Warnings in DUI Cases

Occasionally, Miranda warnings come into play in DUI cases. Police are generally required to give Miranda warnings prior to questioning a suspect who’s in police custody. So, if a DUI suspect who’s in police custody and hasn’t been given Miranda warnings makes an incriminating statement in response to police questioning, the statement probably can’t be used in court against the suspect.

Talking to a DUI Attorney

This article goes over some basic information about DUI defenses, but there’s no substitute for the help of a knowledgeable attorney. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, you should get in touch with a qualified attorney as soon as possible.




Speak With One Of Our DUI Attorneys In Scottsdale

Canterbury Law Group’s DUI Lawyers in Phoenix and Scottsdale will defend your case with personal attention and always have you and your best interests in mind. Call today for an initial consultation!

We are experienced criminal defense attorneys and will fight for you to obtain the best possible outcome. Our firm will rigorously represent you, so you can get on with your life. Call today for an initial consultation! 480-744-7711 or [email protected]

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.

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