Arizona’s DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI offense in Arizona.

Arizona prohibits driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, due to the legal definitions used for "driving" and "under the influence," a conviction doesn't necessarily require a moving vehicle or proof of actual driver impairment.

This article covers all the legal definitions related to DUI charges, the various types of impaired driving offenses, the penalties for DUI convictions, and even ways a driver might be able to avoid conviction and/or jail time.

Arizona's DUI Laws

To be convicted of a DUI in Arizona, the prosecutor generally must prove two "elements" in court. The prosecution must show the motorists was:

  • driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, and
  • under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

However, these two elements require a bit more explanation.

How Arizona's DUI Laws Define "Driving" or Being in "Actual Physical Control" of a Vehicle

In addition to "driving," Arizona's DUI law prohibits being in "actual physical control" of a vehicle while under the influence.

While not defined in the DUI statutes, Arizona courts have said that actual physical control includes situations where the potential use of the vehicle presents a real danger to others.

However, Arizona law provides a "sleep it off" defense that generally protects drivers from conviction who park off of the road and sleep in a car that's not running.

How Arizona's DUI Laws Define "Under the Influence"

A person is considered to be under the influence for purposes of Arizona's DUI laws if:

  • his or her mental and physical ability to drive is "impaired to the slightest degree" by alcohol or drugs
  • he or she had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, or
  • he or she had any amount of a "dangerous drug" in his or her system (dangerous drugs include most controlled substances like cocaine and methamphetamines but not marijuana).

A physician's prescription can provide a defense to a charge based on an amount of a dangerous drug but not a DUI charge based on actual impairment. In other words, you might be ok if you test positive for prescribed pain medication you took last week, but if you're actually impaired, the defense won't help.

Penalties for a 1st and 2nd DUI Conviction in Arizona

Arizona statutes set out the range of penalties for DUI convictions, categorized by the number of prior DUI convictions the driver has. Within these ranges, the court often has discretion to impose harsher or more lenient penalties depending on the circumstances, including mitigating and aggravating factors.

How Long a DUI Stays on Your Record in Arizona

Generally, DUIs stay on your record as prior convictions in Arizona for only seven years. However, a driver with three DUIs in ten years can be charged with a felony DUI for the third.

Jail Time and for Arizona DUI Convictions

All DUI convictions result in fines, jail, and a variety of fees and costs. These are the standard penalties for a first and second conviction. However, drivers with a high BAC will face enhanced penalties, which are discussed below.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

Jail

10 days to 6 months

90 days to 6 months

Fines

$250 to $2,500

$500 to $2,500

Fees

$1,000

$2,500

Community Service

Not required

At least 30 hours

1st and 2nd Arizona DUIs Involving a High BAC

For drivers with a BAC that's at least .15%, the following penalties apply.

First offense with .15% BAC. If a driver has a BAC of .15% but less than .20%, he or she will serve a minimum 30 days in jail and pay at least $2,500 in fines and fees.

First offense with .20% BAC. A driver with a BAC of .20% or more must spend a minimum 45 days in jail and pay at least $2,750 in fines and fees.

Second offense with .15% BAC. A driver with a prior DUI conviction and a BAC of .15% to .20% will face 60 days in jail and at least $2,750 in fines and fees.

Second offense with .20% BAC. For a second offense, a BAC of at least .20% will result in 180 days in jail and at least $3,250 in fines and fees.

Arizona's Felony DUI Penalties and Aggravating Factors

A DUI is generally a misdemeanor in Arizona, but certain aggravating factors can elevate a DUI to a felony. Here are a few different DUI felony charges.

"Habitual violator" (3rd) DUI. A third DUI conviction within an 84-month period will be considered a level-four felony. A conviction carries four months to three years in prison and at least $4,000 in fines and fees.

Impaired driving while revoked. An impaired driver who was revoked or suspended due to a prior DUI conviction will be charged with a level-four felony and face four months to three years in prison and at least $4,000 in fines.

Child passengers. Driving under the influence with a child passenger under the age of 15 will also be a felony. As a level six felony, a convicted driver will face up to 18 months in prison and at least $4,000 in fines and fees.

DUI with an IID. Many drivers convicted of DUI are required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle. Impaired driving in violation of these restrictions will be a level four felony and carries 18 months to three years in prison and at least $4,000 in fines and fees.

Wrong way DUI. Driving on the wrong side of the highway while impaired can also be charged as a level four felony. A conviction similarly carries four months to three years in prison and a minimum of $4,000 in fines and fees.

Arizona's Substance Abuse Treatment Requirement for DUI Offenders

Alcohol and drug treatment generally isn't required for DUI offenders by Arizona law. But participation in treatment can greatly reduce the required jail time.

For example, the jail time for a first-offense DUI can be reduced to only one day in jail if the offender enrolls in and completes an approved treatment program.

Traffic Survival Course Requirement for AZ DUI Offenders

All DUI offenders generally must complete a traffic survival course (usually, eight hours) that covers traffic safety.

License-Related Penalties for Arizona DUI Offenses

The license penalties and restrictions for a DUI incident generally vary based on the number of prior offenses and other aggravating factors. Additionally, under Arizona's implied consent law, license-related penalties can result from a DUI arrest and/or conviction.

Arizona's Implied Consent Law

Arizona's "implied consent" law generally requires all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence to submit to breath, blood, or urine testing when requested to do so by an officer. Drivers who fail or refuse testing will face license-related penalties.

Refusing a DUI Test in Arizona

When a driver refuses to take an alcohol or drug test as required by the implied consent law, the officer will send notice of the refusal to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Generally, a refusal will result in the DMV revoking the driver's license for one year for a first offense and two years if the driver has any prior test refusals.

Refusal revocations are administratively imposed by the DMV and don't require a DUI conviction.

Failing a DUI Test in Arizona

A driver can face driver's license suspension for failing a chemical test. Test failures include providing a BAC of .08% or more or testing positive for any listed dangerous drug.

Failing a DUI test will generally result in the DMV revoking the driver's license for 90 days. If the driver has no prior DUIs and completes treatment, the suspension can be reduced to 30 days, with a 60-day IID restriction.

Revocations based on test failures are administratively imposed by the DMV and can occur even without a criminal conviction.

License Revocation for DUI Convictions in Arizona

A first DUI conviction generally doesn't result in license revocation. However, a second DUI will carry a one-year revocation.

Also, drivers convicted of excessive impairment DUI or felony DUI will face a one-year revocation.

Arizona's Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Requirements

Most DUI offenses also result in an IID requirement. This device prevents the operation of the equipped vehicle if the driver has consumed alcohol.

Generally, the IID duration is left to the discretion of the court, but most DUI convictions will result in at least one year with an IID after the offender has completed any suspension period and finished treatment requirements.

An excessive impairment DUI requires at least one year with an IID and a felony DUI requires at least two years with an IID.

Getting a Restricted License in Arizona After a DUI Revocation

Even if an IID isn't ordered by the court, the driver may opt to install one in order to reduce the suspension period.

A suspended driver can generally obtain a restricted license after completing an approved treatment/screening program and completing a portion of the suspension period (30 days for a first offense and 45 days for a second).

Arizona's Underage DUI Law

Arizona prohibits any person under the age of 21 years of age from driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system.

As a class 1 misdemeanor, a conviction will carry up to six months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. The driver's license will also be revoked for two years.

Underage drivers are also subject to Arizona's implied consent law. An underage driver that is suspected of having consumed alcohol is required by law to submit to a chemical test. Refusing a lawful test will result in the standard one-year revocation.

DUI Plea Negotiations and Diversions.

Diversions and downward pleas are not allowed in Arizona, but many other alternatives do exist. A skilled attorney may be able to negotiate work release instead of jail time or reduce a felony DUI to a misdemeanor. Consult with an experienced attorney regarding your options.

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