The harsh penalties for an Arizona extreme DUI conviction have been well chronicled in this blog. However, what happens when we apply these penalties to people who were only visiting Arizona and charged with DUI?
One could take the view: who cares? When people come to "our state" and commit crimes, they deserve whatever they get. On the other hand, you could look at what I believe are the unintended effects of these penalties on visitors to Arizona. Moreover, these unintended consequences really demonstrate the disconnect between what should be the goals of the law (deterrence) and the means (more jail) used to carry out those goals.
Here are some basic facts. First, for obvious reasons, we get a lot of visitors to Arizona. Second, we have DUI laws and enforcement that are much stricter than in most states. And third, despite the promise that increased penalties (i.e. jail time) would prevent DUI offenses, it appears law enforcement agencies are still arresting the same amount (or more) of people for DUI. If there is a reader of this post who has some statistic showing my third premise is incorrect, please post it in the comments and I will publish it. However, I am doubtful that anyone will find such a statistic. In addition, I contend that the increased DUI penalties fail to deter both in-state and out-of-state visitors. Thus, visitors to Arizona, lots of visitors to Arizona, are getting charged with DUI offenses.
Let's add the penalties for an Arizona extreme DUI conviction to the equation. For a first time extreme DUI offense (i.e. blood alcohol result of .150 and below a .200), even if the judge believes you are the best person on the planet, the minimum sentence is 30 days jail. Combine this with certain prosecuting agencies that offer a plea agreement of 30 days jail (or close to it), and out-of-state visitors have a real problem.
For the Arizona resident, 30 days jail is a tremendous burden. However, at least with work release, you should be able to keep your employment. If you live in California and are sentenced to 30 days jail in Arizona, your job (your career) is now in jeopardy. How many employers are going to say "sure, take thirty days off to go serve a jail term in Scottsdale, no problem?" This misdemeanor offense can have penalties that could ruin someones livelihood.
Here are the solutions we have found in the past. An out-of-state visitor can request an order to do their jail in their home state. That request is almost always granted. However, the judge will tell you it is "your" responsibility to find a jail in your home state that will comply with the incarceration order. In my experience, the average person can find a jail that will take them for a day or two, but 30 days - good luck! To solve this problem, we have had to employ former law enforcement officers and had them assist with getting our clients accepted into the facility. Even using this method, it is still difficult. Moreover, how many people can afford this service?
The other option is going to trial. If you can convince the jury that your blood alcohol concentration was merely over .08 but below .150, then the minimum jail is reduced to one (1) day.
In sum, Arizona has set up a terrible dilemma for out-of-state visitors charged with extreme DUI. My experience is that prosecuting agencies have little sympathy for the unique problems they face. The reality is law enforcement takes the attitude - "its your problem - deal with it." Dealing with it may be a lot harder for out-of-state visitors.
If you need legal advice for a specific problem, you must consult with an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney. For more information about Arizona Criminal Law or a specific legal problem, please contact Koplow & Patane Online or by phone at (602) 494-3444.