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. 

A Person Accused Of DUI Deserves A True Second Opinion

Arizona DUI cases almost always involve a chemical test. There is a movement in Arizona towards the exclusive use of blood testing. It is well settled that blood testing is more accurate than breath testing. But how accurate is blood testing? Can it truly determine a person's blood alcohol concentration? I believe that these are reasonable questions to be asked by a person accused of DUI and facing 30 to 45 days in jail.

Under our system of justice we should demand better answers from the government than "because we said so" or "because our lab has the highest standards." Simple conclusions are not good enough in science and they should not be good enough in justice.

So who checks the government's test results in Arizona? The simple answer is the government. They merely claim to check themselves. I have yet to see one Arizona crime lab that conducts blind testing by an independent party.

Here is how the actual process works. In Arizona DUI cases, The government expert will tell juries that they do double check their work. That is, they have a quality assurance program to make sure the blood alcohol test results are accurate. But the government's oversight of their work is not what you my think. Instead retesting every sample, or randomly retesting a portion of the samples, the lab merely does a technical review.

A "technical review" is not retesting. The Government toxicologist usually puts between 30 to 40 blood samples into a blood tester. Then they turn the blood tester on and leave. The blood tester commonly runs overnight and the printed results are reviewed by the government lab person.

 

This review of the printed documents is what is known as a technical review. The actual documents are called chromatograms. They are simply pieces of paper with graphs and data on them (retention times, area counts, etc...) If the run has the usual 30 to 40 samples there could be well over 100 pages of data.

In court, the government will tell the jury that they "double check" all the tests. What they actually do is take those 80 to 100 pieces of paper and give it to another employee of the same lab.  That person then reviews the data. As long as the data appears to be consistent, they conclude it is an accurate test. In Court, they tell the jury they got a second opinon from another analyst to ensure the accuaracy of the tests.  

A nationally recognized expert, Dr. A.W. Jones, has opined that in forensic testing of blood samples retesting should be done, not a mere a "technical review." It is his opinion, that a mere technical review is inadequate to ensure the accuracy of the test results.

This standard makes perfect sense in DUI cases because the level of punishment is often dependent upon the test result. If a person's blood alcohol concentration result is .165 the person is facing a minimum of 30 days in jail. If he was under a .150 then he is merely facing 1 day in jail. Is it too much to ask the government to check their work when 29 days of jail is at stake? I guess the answer depends on how important the result is to you.

If you were at the doctor and she said "the blood tests were back," "we need to operate," let's "prep for the mastectomy." Most people would seek a second opinion. Why...because the issue is too important to merely rely on the first test. When it matter to you - you retest.

P.S. I will address the Defendant's ability to do their own retesting in my next entry.

 

I Want To See A Replay

I was reading DUI Attorney Mark Steven's blog and he touched upon a subject that concerns many DUI attorneys.  Why don't more police officers videotape DUI arrests?  Clearly, this would be the best evidence of a person's degree of impairment.  So, why not use videotape in a DUI investigation?

Mark addresses this issue in his post Why Aren't Most New Hampshire DWI Arrests Video Recorded?  He writes:

Just about everywhere you go today in public you are being videotaped. You are videotaped at your bank, supermarket, shopping mall, drive through lines for fast food, donut shops, even little convenience stores. Just about every place is equipped with a video camera these days. If someone holds up a little store or commits just about any crime in public there is a video of the event on the evening news, copied from a surveillance camera. It has become very inexpensive to capture a high quality audio and video recording for safety and security purposes of just about every aspect of our everyday lives.

When you watch cop shows at night all sorts of DWI and other arrests are captured on cruiser videos all over the country. You can see clearly and hear easily whether the driver is drunk or not on these video recordings made from cruiser cameras. Police departments all around the country also video and audio record bookings. With a good quality video recording little is left to the imagination as to whether the driver was really drunk or not. So why aren't most DWI arrests in New Hampshire video and audio recorded?

Is it a "safety issue"? It would seem unlikely that there is a safety issue here that doesn't exist in any other part of the United States. Is it cost? That seems unlikely with the massive amount of money being thrown into inefficient DWI roadblocks and inaccurate hand-held breath testing gadgets. Last year stories were published about a $400,000.00 "batmobile" for the local police to use during DWI roadblocks. It cannot seriously be argued that the police cannot afford to videotape DWI arrests.

So if it's not safety and it's not cost, what could it be? We all know that DWI is a serious law enforcement concern; we hear that all the time, year after road-blocking year. Wouldn't the best way to prosecute a drunk driving case be to show the judge or jury a videotape of the driver if he or she was really drunk? So why don't the police want to show a videotape of a drunk driver at a drunk driving trial?

Could it be that some of the people arrested for drunk driving are not drunk? Or that they really don't act and speak as drunkardly as the police reports describe? It is easy enough to form your own conclusions as to why most DWI arrests are not videotaped.

Think about the power a videotape could have in a DUI case.  When a person has a blood test result of .200, there is an expectation that person will be acting in a certain manner (generally, this manner is face down, on the floor, drunk.)  A video showing them walking around, following a police officer's instructions and responding appropriately to instructions may make a person (like a juror) question the accuracy and reliability of that test result. 

What is a "Super" Extreme DUI?

The "Super" Extreme DUI is a relatively new creation by the Arizona State Legislature.  The language of the statute does not actully refer to the word "super."  Most attorneys have simply adopted this name because of the harsh "super" jail sentence that can result from a conviction of this law.

To be convicted of this law a person must be proven to have been driving and have a blood alcohol concentration of .200 or above.  The resulting jail term, which is only one of several penalties, is a minimum of 45 days.  The good news regarding this statute is there are several cases currently challanging the legality of the statute.

 

Services

Lawrence Koplow defends all types of DUI and vehicular crimes cases, including:

Mr. Koplow also defends traffic crimes and driver's license issues such as driver's license suspensions, speeding tickets and photo radar tickets.  Mr. Koplow and his firm have extensive experience resolving issues with the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the Arizona Department of Transportation.  This area of his practice includes the following types of cases:

As a former a vehicular crimes prosecutor Mr. Koplow has unique experience defending felony vehicular crimes charges.  Vehicular cases, such as drunk-driving accidents, are the most challenging types of criminal case and require extensive training and experience.  Mr. handles the following types of vehicular crimes cases:

Mr. Koplow also represent defendants in appeals and / or post-conviction relief motions for all of the above charges.  Mr. Koplow may handle other types of cases for his clients, however, these cases are accepted on a case-by-case basis.

PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

  • Accreditation, Lies, and ISO Standards:  The Continuing Scottsdale Saga, 27th Annual Aggressive Defense of the Accused Impaired Driver conference, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Tucson, Arizona, May 10, 2014.
  • Winning a Blood Case When They Say Everything Looks Perfect, June 26, 2014, APDA Statewide Conference, Tempe, Arizona, June 27, 2013.
  • Daubert and the Scottsdale Crime Lab: Separating Science from Science, 2013 APDA Statewide Conference, Tempe, Arizona, June 27, 2013.
  • Trial Tactics that Work, 25th Annual Aggressive Defense of the Accused Impaired Driver Seminar, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Tucson, Arizona, May 2012.
  • Prosecutor and Defense Professionalism, Maricopa County Attorney Office Training and Development
  • Civil Aspects of Impaired Driving Cases, The Arizona Association of Civil Defense Attorneys
  • Impaired Driving Investigations for Law Enforcement, The Northern Arizona Police Department 
  • Challenging Blood Alcohol Measurements, In Vehicular Homicide Cases (Chapter), Defending DUI Vehicular Homicide Cases, Aspatore Publishing, 2015 Edition.

AWARDS

Lawyer Of The Year For Outstanding Contribution To DUI Defense Award, May 1, 2015, by Arizona Attorneys For Criminal Justice.

For Additional Information or Case Review:

Contact Lawrence Koplow online or call him at his office at (602) 494-3444.  Mr. Koplow and his firm will be available to help you solve your legal problems.