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Graduation Season in Tucson: Brush Up on Arizona’s DUI Laws

May 10, 2024

The Tucson Police Department knows that graduation season means that more young or underage drinkers will be on the road, posing a threat to public safety. This means that more police officers will be on the road, looking for signs of impaired drivers. Even if you didn’t attend a graduation party, aren’t an underage drinker, or don’t think you had that much to drink, you are still vulnerable to being stopped on suspicion of drunk driving. If you do get stopped or arrested under suspicion of drunk driving, attorney Janet Altschuler can help. Here is our guide to understanding Arizona’s DUI laws and ensuring your safety on the road. 

The Definition of a DUI in Arizona

Arizona law dictates that it is illegal to drive a vehicle or be in physical control of a vehicle if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The law defines ‘under the influence’ as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or greater. A DUI is considered equivalent to a violent crime due to its ability to cause serious injury or death should an accident occur. Being under the influence can cover alcohol, illegal drugs, and even prescription drugs that impair your judgment or ability to safely control your vehicle. 

Can You Get Charged with a DUI in Arizona Even if You Weren’t Driving? 

Yes, you can get charged with DUI even if you aren’t actually driving your vehicle. Any action that could be interpreted as having ‘actual physical control’ over your vehicle could subject you to being charged with DUI. Actual physical control can be determined if you are the primary party in control of the vehicle, are sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in your hand or the ignition, if you are in the driver’s seat with the headlights on, or if you give other indications that you are planning on driving. The law defines ‘under the influence’ if you are impaired by a substance to the point that it interferes with your ability to safely operate your vehicle. 

Understanding the “Not a Drop” Law and the “Shelter Rule” Defense

Arizona has a “not a drop” law that dictates a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking. If you are under 21 and have a BAC over 0.00%, you can be charged with DUI. Arizona also has a “shelter defense” rule. This means that if you pull onto the side of the road or into a parking lot to avoid driving while intoxicated, you may be able to use this as a defense against a DUI charge. 
Arizona’s Penalties for DUIs

Arizona has serious penalties for DUIs, even if it is your first offense or your BAC isn’t that high. The state also imposes more serious penalties for aggravated and extreme DUIs.

Aggravated and Extreme DUI Penalties

You can be charged with an aggravated DUI if you are:

  • Arrested for DUI when your driver’s license is suspended, revoked, or canceled.
  • Found guilty of committing a third DUI within 84 months of a previous conviction.
  • Found guilty of committing a DUI with someone under age 15 in the car.
  • Found guilty of DUI when you have an ignition interlock device in your car and refuse to submit to a BAC test.

An aggravated DUI is a felony that could include up to two years in prison, revocation of your driver’s license for a year, installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle, performing community service, and enrolling in alcohol education and treatment programs. 

You can be charged with an extreme DUI if you have a BAC over 0.15%. For your first offense, you must serve at least 30 days in jail, and pay a minimum fine of $2500. You must also install an IID in your car and enroll in an alcohol education and treatment program. For a second offense and beyond, the punishment is much more severe.

What Happens if You Refuse a Blood or Breath Test in AZ?

All drivers are required to submit to a blood alcohol or breath test if they are stopped or detained on suspicion of DUI. If you refuse to take a test, your license will be suspended for a year. If you refuse twice in 84 months, your license will be suspended for two years.

Finding an Experienced DUI Attorney in Arizona

If you have been charged with DUI in Arizona or are being detained on suspicion of DUI, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney Janet Altschuler has decades of experience helping clients fight DUI charges in Arizona. Call us today to schedule a free consultation or find out more information about how we can help you defend yourself against DUI charges in Pima County.

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