ARS 28-1383 makes a fourth-time DUI in a 7-year period in Arizona an aggravated DUI, which is a class 4 felony. Penalties include a mandatory minimum of an 8-month prison sentence, $4,000 in fines, and a 1-year driver’s license suspension. In addition, the defendant must take traffic survival school as well as an alcohol and drug screening, education, or treatment. The defendant may also have to forfeit the vehicle. And when the defendant resumes driving, an ignition interlock device must be installed for at least 24 months.
What is a DUI in Arizona?
Under Arizona law, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs includes either:
- Operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, even if the driver is not impaired; or
- Operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs even to the slightest degree, no matter the BAC level.
Arizona has three classes of DUI depending on the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration:
- DUI (a.k.a. ordinary DUI, impaired DUI, or DUI per se): 0.08% to 0.149%
- Extreme DUI: 0.15% to 0.199%
- Super Extreme DUI: 0.20% and higher
The higher the blood alcohol level, the harsher the sentence.
When is DUI a felony?
Under Arizona DUI law, drunk driving (or drugged driving) gets charged as a felony – called aggravated DUI – in the following five cases:
- The defendant’s license was suspended or revoked at the time;
- The defendant had two or more prior DUIs in the past seven years;
- The defendant was transporting a minor under 15 years old at the time;
- The defendant was under an order to drive with an ignition interlock device (IID); or
- The defendant was driving on the wrong side of the highway
So even if a driver’s BAC is just above the legal limit at 0.08%, ARS 28-1383 requires that he/she get charged with a felony if any of the above “aggravating” circumstances apply.
Can I still drive?
The only way Arizona DUI defendants keep their driving privileges is by winning both the:
- criminal case, and
- MVD case
Even if the defendant’s criminal DUI charges get dismissed, the Motor Vehicles Department can still revoke his/her driver’s license. And if the MVD dismisses its administrative case against the defendant, the criminal court can still convict the defendant – which would result in a suspended license anyway.
The MVD case culminates in an administrative hearing, where the defendant (or his/her attorney) can contest the license revocation. As with a regular trial, the defendant can introduce evidence and examine witnesses. But MVD hearings are much harder to win than criminal trials because the state has a low burden of proof to show the defendant was driving under the influence.
Can the charge get dismissed?
Arizona felony DUI charges can potentially get reduced to a misdemeanor or dismissed. The most effective defense strategies turn on the unique facts of the case. Five potential DUI defenses include:
- The defendant did not have two or more DUI convictions in the prior seven years.
- There was insufficient probable cause for the police officer to execute a DUI arrest.
- The breathalyzer was defective and returned incorrect BAC results.
- Law enforcement waited too long to administer the blood test.
- The defendant had a medical or physical condition that caused the breath test to display inaccurately high BAC levels.
Facing an aggravated DUI charge or other DUI offense in Arizona? Our criminal defense attorneys will fight to avoid a felony conviction and to get the DUI case reduced or dismissed.
Our criminal defense lawyers create attorney-client relationships in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and throughout the state of Arizona. Our DUI lawyers can meet you for a free consultation virtually or in our law office.