Under Arizona law, people commit DUI hit and run, or leaving the scene of an accident, if they fail to stop their vehicle after getting into a motor vehicle accident while driving intoxicated. Drivers in this scenario can get charged with DUI per ARS 28-1381A1, hit and run per ARS 28-661 or ARS 28-662, and even aggravated DUI per ARS 28-1383 depending on the circumstances. DUI hit and run accident cases can result in felony charges that are punishable by several years in state prison.
- leaving the scene of an accident while driving a car with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%.
- hitting a parked car when driving under the influence and speeding away from the accident scene.
- colliding with another motor vehicle when driving intoxicated and not stopping.
People accused under one of the above statutes can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. A few common defenses include defendants showing that:
- they were not driving under the influence,
- the police arrested the wrong person, and/or
- law enforcement violated one of their constitutional rights.
Prosecutors can charge DUI hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case. A conviction can result in:
- custody in state prison or county jail, and/or
- a costly fine.
In this article, our Phoenix criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under these statutes, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “DUI hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident”?
In general, a prosecutor must prove the following elements to successfully convict a driver of DUI hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident:
- the defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence (of alcohol and/or drugs), or
- the defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of .08%, and
- the accused got into a car accident and failed to stop at the accident scene.
Under Arizona’s DUI laws, a prosecutor will typically charge a person with DUI in these cases and then an offense under either:
- ARS 28-661, or
- ARS 28-662.
Per ARS 28-661, people are guilty of a crime if they:
- get involved in a car accident resulting in serious injury or death to a person, and
- knowingly fail to stop or remain at the accident scene.1
Per ARS 28-662, people are guilty of a crime if they:
- get involved in a DUI accident that causes damage to a vehicle, and
- knowingly fail to stop or remain at the accident scene.2
Depending on the facts of the case, a prosecutor can even charge a driver with aggravated DUI. Per ARS 28-1383, an aggravated DUI is an Arizona DUI that is a felony-level DUI. The most common aggravated DUIs are for:
- drunk driving with a driver’s license suspension,
- drunk driving with an ignition interlock device (IID), and
- a third DUI.3
2. Are defenses available?
Yes. DUI lawyers draw upon several defense strategies in helping clients contest criminal charges under the above laws. Three common DUI defenses include lawyers showing that:
- an accused was not driving while intoxicated.
- a police officer arrested the wrong person.
- the authorities violated one of the accused’s constitutional rights.
2.1. Not driving under the influence
Recall that defendants are only guilty of a crime in these cases if they were involved in a car accident while driving “under the influence.” If the police were not able to conduct a breathalyzer test to determine an accused’s BAC level, a defendant can challenge a charge by showing that he/she was not intoxicated at the time of the accident. If successful, the defendant may still have to face a charge of non-DUI hit and run.
2.2. Arrest of the wrong person
Defense lawyers can try to contest charges in these DUI cases by showing that the police arrested the wrong person. Hit and run cases often involve drivers traveling at high speeds, so sometimes law enforcement may not get a good glimpse of the guilty party.
2.3. Violation of a constitutional right
Defendants can always contest DUI charges by showing that law enforcement violated one of their constitutional rights. For example, maybe the police arrested the defendant without probable cause. In these situations, a defendant can attempt to use the violation to try and get a DUI charge reduced or even dropped altogether.
3. What are the penalties for this DUI offense?
The penalties for DUI hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident depend on what crime a driver ultimately gets convicted of.
If a driver gets convicted under ARS 28-661, the result is a felony conviction worth up to 10 years in state prison time.4
If a driver gets convicted under ARS 28-662, the result is a Class 2 misdemeanor conviction. The crime is punishable by:
- up to four months in jail time, and/or
- a maximum fine of $750.5
If a driver gets charged with aggravated DUI under ARS 28-1383, he/she may face a felony charge that is punishable by:
- at least four months in prison,
- $4,000 in fines, and
- a minimum 1-year license suspension.6
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to DUI hit and run. These are:
- DUI – ARS 28-1381A1,
- DUI on an invalid license – ARS 28-1383A1, and
- extreme DUI – ARS 28-1382A1.
4.1. DUI – ARS 28-1381A1
Under ARS 28-1381A1, DUI is the offense where someone drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of:
- a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or
- any combination of liquor, drugs, or vapor.
Unlike with DUI hit and run, a first-time DUI is always a misdemeanor offense. Possible penalties include:
- jail time,
- a 90-day driver’s license revocation, and
- community service.
4.2. DUI on an invalid license – ARS 28-1383A1
Per ARS 28-1383A1, DUI on an invalid license is the crime where people drive under the influence after a driver’s license suspension, license revocation, or license cancelation.
As with charges of DUI hit and run, defendants can contest charges under this law with the defense that law enforcement violated one of their constitutional rights.
4.3. Extreme DUI – ARS 28-1382A1
Per ARS 28-1382A1, extreme DUI is the crime where people drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15% to 0.199%.
Unlike with a charge of DUI after leaving an accident scene, a first-time extreme DUI charge is always a Class 1 misdemeanor charge carrying 30 days of jail time, a 90-day license suspension, and about $2,500 in fines.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm/law office at the Shouse Law Group. Our legal team provides both free initial consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our DUI attorneys also represent clients throughout the State of Arizona, including those in Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, and Tempe.
- A.R.S 28-661. For the element of “knowingly,” see Washington v. Superior Court, 180 Ariz. 91 (1994).
- ARS 28-662.
- See ARS 28-1383.
- ARS 28-661.
- ARS 28-662.
- ARS 28-1383.