The Dirty Little Secret (of Arizona DUI First Offense)

Here is the math used in Arizona: INCREASED JAIL + DUI PROBLEM = REDUCED DUI PROBLEM.  It makes perfect sense, right.  Who would risk more than a month in jail for a few drinks.  

Apparently - lots of people.  Maybe even more people now, than when the penalties were previously lower.  Unfortunately the State's math is flawed.  Let me give you some anecdotal evidence.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in an arraignment with a client waiting for our case to be called.  Before the judge started calling cases he told the packed court room about Arizona's DUI penalties.  After going through the sentencing schemes he also made the following disclosure in open court. He stated, these DUI penalties have become harsher and harsher ever since he had been practicing law (and by grey color of his remaining hair that appeared to be a long time). "However, my courtroom still stays full." He went on to say that "we all know" the new DUI penalties have not reduced the number of DUI cases but it is the law.  "Fair or not these are the laws I am required to follow."

Well it is not everyday a judge, in open court, makes such a candid admission.  Moreover, the judge's speech was absolutely correct about the Arizona DUI laws.  Those of who are involved in Arizona DUI cases, "all know" the math is wrong.  We all know, law enforcement included, raising penalties does not reduce the number DUI cases.  One reason is the real consequence of a DUI is not jail, but taking someone's life.  If that is not enough to stop someone from driving impaired, then long jail terms that no person really knows the specifics of (until after they are charged), certainly will not have a great impact.

However, I have an idea of what may work.  In part two of this post I make my case for how I believe we should address the problem.  That is, if we are serious about solving it - which I hope we are.


Lawrence Koplow

5 Things You Should Know About Arizona Super Extreme DUI Convictions

Arizona is one of a few states that has created something referred to as "Super Extreme DUI."  A DUI is "Super Extreme" if a person's blood alcohol concentration is .200 or above.  While this crime is still a misdemeanor, it carries a minimum jail term that is greater than most first time felonies.  There are several characteristics of this crime that make it unique.  Here are the five most important:

1. An extended period of an Ignition Interlock Device.  All Arizona DUI convictions require a person to install and maintain an ignition interlock device.  For a first time regular DUI, the minimum period is one year.  A conviction of Super Extreme DUI requires a minimum period of 18 months (or one and one-half years.)

2. Extended jail period.  For a regular DUI conviction, there is a minimum jail term of 1 day.  For an extreme DUI (BAC result of .150 and below a .200) conviction, there is a minimum jail term of 30 days.  For an Arizona Super Extreme DUI, the minimum jail term is 45 days.

3.  A better chance of getting your name in lights.  The Maricopa County Attorneys' Office has a website that posts booking photos of DUI offenders.  While they do not provide explicit details of how they choose who they post pictures of, we do know that they focus on people alleged to have higher blood alcohol test results (i.e. "Super Extreme DUI" and "Extreme DUI.")

4. Out of state offenders will probably go to trial.  If you live in another state and get a "Super Extreme DUI", you will have an inherent difficulty with taking a plea offer.  Many prosecuting offices offer long periods of jail for these cases.  It is not uncommon for them to offer the same amount of jail the person may get if they went to trial and lost.  For the person that lives in Arizona, they may be be able to maintain their employment during their jail term if granted work release and / or home detention.  However, out of state offenders may not have these options.  While most Arizona courts will permit them to do their jail out of state, there are very few out of state jails that will accommodate them.  Finding a jail in someone's home state for a few days can usually be accomplished.  When it comes to jail terms of 30 to 45 days, it is nearly impossible.  Most out of state jails will not accommodate these requests. Consequently, an out of state offender may need to go to trial and fight the Super Extreme allegation.  If successful, on that count alone, the minimum jail can be significantly reduced.  Thus, trial is often times the best option in these cases.

5.  Simply being charged with "Super Extreme DUI" does not mean you will be convicted of "Super Extreme DUI."  While prosecutors tend to offer extended periods of jail on these cases, that does not mean a reduction (or even dismissal) is not possible.  There are several factors that need to be examined: (1) How far above a .200 is the test result? (2) Were there any problems with the blood testing process? (3) How bad was the driving prior to the traffic stop? (4) Is there a disconnect between how the person was acting and the test result? and (5) Are there any procedural or constitutional violations?  Moreover, there are many other factors that may affect the outcome of the case.  The general concept is that if the government believes they might lose the case, the better the chance of a reduced plea offer.

In sum, Arizona Super Extreme DUI convictions are truly unique, in that the increased penalties for this misdemeanor can be more onerous than many felonies. 

What are the New Arizona DUI Penalties in 2008?

The legislature has once again raised the DUI penalties.  However, the changes only affect those convicted of extreme DUI.  That is, the penalties are only increased for those convicted of a DUI having a blood alcohol concentration between .150 and below .200.  The new penalties are illustrated below:

New Arizona Extreme DUI Penalties 2008

 If you need legal advice for a specific problem, you must consult with an Arizona DUI attorney. For more information about Arizona DUI law or a specific legal problem, please contact Koplow & Patane on-line or by phone at (602) 494-3444.

3 Things I Wish People Knew Before Drinking & Driving

It's 5:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon in Phoenix, and Joe just walked through the door of his favorite restaurant to meet some friends for happy hour.  He drove himself to the restaurant.  When he is done, he is going to drive to his house in Scottsdale.

At the table, Joe sees everyone has one of the restaurant's signature margaritas in front of them.  The waiter comes to the table and asks Joe: "can I get you something to drink?"  Before Joe answers this question, I wish he would consider the following facts:

  1. There is no crime of Drunk Driving in Arizona.  Arizona law makes it illegal to drive while Joe is impaired to at least the slightest degree by alcohol.  This means that if Joe's ability to drive is impaired to any degree, Joe is technically in violation of the law;
  2. If Joe is stopped by the police, they will stick a needle in Joe's arm.  Regardless of the law on this subject, it has been my experience that if Joe is stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation, and the officer smells any alcohol, Joe is going to end up taking a chemical test.  Many police agencies are now using blood testing instead of breath testing.  If the officer smells alcohol on Joe's breath (or just imagines it), Joe is going to have a needle stuck in his arm and a blood sample will be taken.  The results of the blood test will probably take at least 30 days to come back.  While Joe is waiting to find out the results of the blood test, he will not sleep very much or very well;
  3. If Joe refuses the blood test, the officer will get a warrant and forcibly take his blood.  Once the officer meets the requirements of Arizona's implied consent law, he may require Joe to submit to a chemical test.  If Joe says "no," he will then lose his driver's license for 12 months.  Moreover, the officer will then make a phone call to the judge.  Within minutes, the judge can then issue a telephonic warrant.  If Joe still refuses, he will be held down by several police officers, and a needle will be shoved into his vein. 
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5 Frequently Asked Questions About Arizona DUI Penalties

1.  If I am convicted of an Arizona DUI, do I have to go to jail?

The only way to avoid going to jail is to avoid a DUI conviction.  However, if you are convicted, Arizona DUI law requires a mandatory term of jail.  The amount of jail will depend on several factors.  To start, the results of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test will generally control the amount of mandatory jail required.  Here are the mandatory minimum terms of jail based on a person's BAC: 

  • BAC under .150 - 1 day
  • BAC of .150 and below .200 (new laws) - 30 days
  • BAC of .200 and above - 45 days

These jail terms apply to first time DUI convictions.  Second time DUI convictions have much longer mandatory minimums. 

2.  Will I lose my driver's license if I am convicted of a DUI in Arizona?

A person's driver's license will be suspended if the results of a chemical test are above .08.  This suspension is actually through the Motor Vehicle Division - not the courts.  Thus, the suspension often occurs prior to a court conviction. 

To illustrate, take the example of a person who is arrested for DUI and performs a breath test.  Suppose the breath test results are .100 and .101.  Because the test results are above a .08, the officer will give that person a form called an admin per se / implied consent affidavit.  The affidavit will state that the person's driver's license will be suspended in 15 days.  The term of suspension is 90 days.  However, after the first 30 days the person may be eligible for a restricted driving permit.  Thus, a conviction is not even necessary for the suspension to take effect.

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New Extreme DUI Penalties

The are several types of DUI offenses in Arizona.  An extreme DUI is based on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of the person accused of DUI.  Specifically, if the person has a BAC above a .150 they will be charged with extreme DUI under § 28-1382 of the Arizona Revised Statutes

Some of the penalties for being convicted of an Extreme DUI charge include:

  • Incarceration (a term of jail)
  • Fines
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
  • Driver License Suspension
  • Substance Abuse Screening and any recommended treatment

The minimum jail term has been 30 days with up to 20 days suspended if the person complied with the recommended treatment resulting from the mandatory drug and alcohol screening.  Simply out, the judge could reduce your sentence to 10 days.  However, the Arizona Extreme DUI laws are changing in the near future.  The legislature has amened the extreme DUI statute removing the ability of judges to do the following:

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Extreme DUI Penalties Enhanced

In 2007, Arizona’s State Legislature passed two extreme DUI bills which conflicted with one another. One bill prohibited judges from reducing the extreme DUI minimum 30 day jail sentence, while the other bill permitted judges to reduce the sentence.

To resolve this conflict, the State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1004, which takes away a judge’s discretion to suspend any portion of a jail term for a person convicted of extreme DUI.

The Arizona Republic has reported:

Lawmakers moved swiftly Thursday to make more penalties for extreme drunken driving mandatory, a change designed to bring two conflicting provisions of the law into agreement.

Judges no longer would have discretion to waive a portion of the 30-day sentence required for first-time extreme-DUI offenders as well as a portion of the 120-day sentence mandated for second offenders. Judges now can waive 10 days of the first-time sentence and 60 days of the second-time sentence if the offender has completed a court-ordered education, treatment or substance-abuse-screening program.

…The bill passed the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee on a unanimous vote.

As stated in the example above, a first time extreme DUI conviction in Arizona previously required a minimum 30 day jail sentence, of which 20 days could be suspended, provided the defendant successfully completed an alcohol or drug screening (and any recommended treatment.)  So persons convicted of extreme DUI actually only had to serve 10 days. The sentencing language usually read Defendant is sentenced to 30 days of jail and 20 of those days will be suspended upon successful completion of a drug and alcohol screening. Under the new bill, persons must serve the full 30 days.

Penalties For a First Offense DUI

As of September 19, 2007, Arizona has new penalties for a first time DUI conviction.  Under the new law, the penalties vary based on the blood alcohol level of the person.  Here are some of the changes the legislature has made for a person convicted of a first offense DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of above a .08 and below a .150.  

The potential jail remains the same as it did before the new law went into effect.  The minimum amount of incarceration is one (1) day and the maximum is six (6) months.  The way to avoid the one day of jail is to either get the case dismissed or reduced to a charge other than DUI.  Moreover, the penalties still include a mandatory alcohol and drug screening.  Based on the results of the screening the person can receive education and treatment.  The amount of education and / or treatment is discretionary. 

Some of the most onerous penalties concern the person's drivers license. There are three primary ways that a person's drivers license can be impacted.  First, as part of every DUI investigation the police will perform some type of chemical test.  The test is usually in the form of blood, breath or urine.  If the test results shows the person had a blood alcohol concentration above a .08, then the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the Arizona Department of Transportation will be notified.  Upon receipt of the results, MVD will suspend the person's driving privileges for a period of ninety (90) days.  However, after the first thirty days (30) days a person may be eligible for a restricted driving permit.  The permit allows a person to go to and from work or school.

 

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