New DUI Laws Start on September 19, 2007

What are the new DUI laws that go into effect today?  Most people do not really know what our legislature has done to the DUI law.   Effective today, Arizona probably has the toughest DUI laws in United States.  There are significant penalties for first time offenders.  An article written by the Arizona Republic's Linsey Collon provides a summary of the new changes.

This week Arizona will enact one of the toughest DUI laws in the nation.  Hardest hit are first-time violators and a new class of "super extreme" DUI offenders whose blood-alcohol concentration registers 0.20 percent or above, which is more than double the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Beginning Wednesday, new penalties include mandatory ignition-interlock devices for first-time offenders, increased fines and a minimum of 45 days in jail for super extreme DUI convictions.

The law was modeled after legislation passed in New Mexico in 2005 requiring interlock devices for all people convicted of driving under the influence. Officials there linked a 4 percent decrease in alcohol-related fatalities to interlock use in the year following the law's passage.

Although lawmakers hope for a similar result in Arizona, DUI attorneys say the higher stakes will lead to increased court caseloads and an extreme inconvenience in the lives of "super extreme" and first-time offenders.

The Arizona Motor Vehicle Division expects about 17,000 first-time drunken drivers in the coming year. They all will have to pass a breath test before getting behind the wheel. 

Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, realizes the bill he sponsored may not win him votes in popularity, but he hopes the law will make Arizona's roads safer.

One Arizona State University student said during a recent chat with legislators " 'Gosh, that DUI bill is just ridiculous. Whose idea was this?' " Schapira said.

The negative response is understandable, he said, given that the penalties are meant to be strong deterrents.

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