Every year, more than 10,000 people in the United States die in accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Arizona drunk driving laws are designed to protect its citizens, and are well-known to be some of the toughest in the country. In fact, among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Arizona ranks first for DUI penalties and second for DUI prevention.
Though Arizona residents and visitors are aware of the harsh penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence, myths persist about DUI arrests in Arizona. These misconceptions could, unfortunately, lead some to fall on the wrong side of the law and lead to life-altering (or ending) tragedies. Whether you live in Arizona or are planning on visiting, you should know the truth about Arizona DUI laws and these common but debunked myths.
DUI Myth 1. I will only get a DUI if I am driving all over.
Many drivers believe that they need to show overt signs of intoxication to a police officer, such as swerving or driving erratically, for an officer to pull them over. This is simply not true. While not being in control of a car, truck, SUV, etc. can be one sign of an impaired driver for a cop, it’s hardly the only one officers are looking for. You can be pulled over for any number of reasons, including driving over or under the speed limit, failing to signal, driving without your headlights on, and much more. There are also legal DUI checkpoints in Arizona where the way you’re driving will have no bearing on whether you are stopped by officers of the law for inspection.
DUI Myth 2. I don’t drink alcohol. I can not get a DUI.
The misconception that you can only get a DUI in Arizona if you’ve been drinking alcohol is prevalent. If you quizzed a handful of people and asked them, “what’s a DUI” they’d likely respond with answers including alcohol, breathalyzer tests, and blood-alcohol levels. You can be charged for driving while impaired due to any number of illegal or legal substances, however. Arizona’s DUI laws are broken into different tiers based on the severity of the violation. Whether a driver in Arizona is impaired by alcohol, illegal drugs, medical marijuana, or another prescription medication, they may be charged with Driving Under the Influence/Impaired to the Slightest Degree or Driving Under the Influence of Any Drug or Metabolite.
DUI Myth 3. If I cooperate with the officer, they will let me go.
If you are polite and cooperative, the law officer absolutely will let you go–but only if you are not and do not appear impaired. According to some estimates, someone dies in the US every 33 minutes due to an alcohol-related crash. When an officer pulls you over and suspects you may be driving under the influence or stops you at a legal checkpoint, their role is not to assess your character but to determine your fitness to drive. In doing so, they are protecting you and others from becoming one of those statistics. If you are driving while impaired, there are no bonus points for being nice about it.
You also have the constitutional right to remain silent and not to incriminate yourself. While you may think it’s in your best interest to divulge that you had a glass of wine with dinner four hours ago, this sort of information can be used against you even if you don’t feel impaired and have a BAC below the legal limit. If you do not wish to answer a question, you can invoke your right to remain silent by saying so.
DUI Myth 4. I have to do everything the officer tells me.
When you are pulled over, you are required to provide your documents (driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance). You are also required to step out of your vehicle if asked. In Arizona, you may refuse to complete field sobriety tests, such as the “walk and turn.” However, under Arizona law, you are not allowed to refuse a chemical sobriety test that determines your blood alcohol content, such as a breathalyzer. If you refuse a BAC test, you will face license suspension, and your refusal could be presented by a prosecutor as an admission of guilt.
DUI Myth 5. BAC was really high, I am going to get a Felony.
Under Arizona’s misdemeanor DUI laws, you will face criminal and administrative penalties that scale based on your BAC and other factors. However, there are also felony DUI laws in Arizona that you should be aware of. In Arizona, a driver can be charged with Aggravated DUI, a felony, if they are found to have:
- Committed a DUI with a suspended, revoked, or canceled license
- Committed three or more DUIs within 84 months
- Committed a DUI related crime with a child aged 15 or younger in the car
- Committed a DUI while driving the wrong way
DUI Myth 6. I am a good person, the officer / prosecutor / judge will let me off the hook.
Arizona law enforcement officers take DUI offenses seriously, and so do the courts. With an Arizona DUI attorney, it may be possible to fight a DUI charge, but there is no “good person” defense that you or anyone else can invoke in court that will get you off the hook. If you’re facing DUI charges in Arizona, the best thing you can do is meet with an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced Arizona DUI lawyer who is familiar with the criminal and administrative proceedings can review the facts in your case and help you understand your rights and determine the best way forward.
DUI Myth 7. I don’t need a Private Attorney or a Public Defender.
It’s true that you’re allowed, by law, to defend yourself in court proceedings as long as you are competent to do so. When faced with the harsh penalties that accompany even a misdemeanor DUI violation in Arizona, however, it’s best to work with an attorney. While the law allows citizens to defend themselves, it also expects them to navigate the judicial system with the same level of skill and knowledge as those who practice law professionally. If you believe you are innocent of the charges against you, your best bet is to work with an Arizona DUI attorney who is well versed in Arizona DUI law and experienced in defending cases like yours is your best.
DUI Myth 8. I got arrested for DUI. My life is over.
While it’s true that Arizona DUI penalties are harsh, they don’t mean your life is over. If convicted, you will face a variety of criminal and administrative penalties, which can include paying fines, attending counseling, installing an ignition-lock device in your car, and even serving jail time. This is why you should contact an Arizona DUI attorney right away if you are arrested for a DUI. Depending on your case, your attorney may be able to prevent a conviction or, if you are convicted, present your case so that you receive reduced fines, suspended jail time, or a shorter probation period.
Arizona’s DUI penalties may seem harsh, but they are designed to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel when they’re impaired, and punish those who do. Whether you live in Flagstaff or elsewhere in Northern Arizona, if you’re facing DUI charges, you need an experienced Arizona DUI law firm on your side. The legal team at Antol & Sherman, our attorneys at law understand that every case is different, and we are committed to fighting for the rights of our clients. We have 60 years of combined legal experience and build strong defenses to help our clients get results. Contact us for a free consultation!
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