Driving under the influence continues to be a prevalent issue in the state of Arizona. The Arizona Department of Transportation reported over 4,500 car crashes with alcohol involved, with 163 resulting in at least one fatality. However, the state frequently updates its DUI laws in hopes of decreasing substance-related accidents and discouraging driving under the influence. In order to protect yourself and others on the road, it’s important to have knowledge of the laws around this serious and potentially grave crime.

DUI Laws are Stricter in Arizona Than in Most States

Arizona takes driving under the influence very seriously; in fact, the state has some of the strictest DUI laws in the United States. When it comes to DUIs, Arizona is a zero tolerance state, meaning that you can be charged with the crime if the officer believes you are impaired, even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is below 0.08%. The state also requires every DUI offender to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle, which restricts driving until the IID proves the user is sober. Additionally, if someone is under the influence in the driver’s seat, they can be charged with DUI, even if the vehicle is parked.

Drugged Driving Counts as DUI

Drunk driving is not the only form of driving under the influence, and Arizona laws make sure to touch on this. According to a recently upheld law, it is illegal to operate a vehicle if there is any drug, legal or otherwise, found in your system. If a drug test finds drug metabolites in someone’s system, they can be charged with a DUI, even if they are not impaired at the time of driving. This includes prescription medications. You can be charged with DUI for driving on medication if it impairs driving or is not taken according to professional recommendation.

Most DUI Charges are Classified as Misdemeanors

The state of Arizona most commonly categorizes DUI as class 1 misdemeanor. The typical BAC to be charged with a misdemeanor DUI charge  is at least 0.08%, or anything over 0.00% for people under 21. However, if one’s BAC is 0.15% or more, they may be charged with what is known as an “Extreme DUI” charge. Though there is harsher punishment for Extreme DUIs, it is still classified as a misdemeanor. There is only one type of DUI in Arizona that carries a felony charge – Aggravated DUI.

Circumstance can Elevate a DUI Charge

As mentioned before, there are DUI charges classified as Aggravated DUI carry a felony charge in Arizona. An Aggravated DUI charge is given to those who:

  • Drive under the influence with a suspended license or while they currently require an IID
  • Are being charged with their 3rd DUI within 7 years
  • Drive under the influence with someone age 15 or younger in the vehicle

The third instance is most important to note, as someone with no prior record could be charged with Aggravated DUI if they violate this law. Additionally, if someone is injured or killed in a crash involving driving under the influence, hefty additional charges, such as vehicular manslaughter, will be added onto the DUI charge as well.

Punishment Varies Between Drunk and Drugged Driving

Though both are categorized as driving under the influence, there is a distinction between drunk driving and drugged driving under Arizona law. Both carry punishments of a minimum 10 days in jail, a minimum of $250, a suspended license, and probation up to 5 years, but there is one key difference. One’s license is suspended longer if they are charged with drugged driving than with drunk driving. A license is typically suspended for 90 days for a drunk driving charge. However, with a drugged driving charge, a license is typically suspended for an entire year.  However, a skilled DUI lawyer can drastically reduce the punishment for a DUI charge, especially in cases of drugged driving.