How Tough Are Arizona’s DUI Laws?

Arizona is known for its stringent Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws. While all fifty (50) states have some uniform laws such as the blood alcohol content (BAC) requirement being set at 0.08%, certain states may have more lax or flexible DUI laws. The question is how Arizona measures up in its DUI regulation in comparison.

The “zero tolerance” BAC

Arizona is one of the more strict states when it comes to zero tolerance laws. The zero tolerance BAC refers to the BAC level that will lead to a DUI charge when someone underage (i.e. under 21) is in actual physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. This law makes it a criminal offense for an underage driver to even have a little alcohol in his or her system. The BAC level range is from 0.00 to 0.02% in every state.1 Arizona is one of seven states to have the more strict 0.00% zero tolerance policy; that is, there is zero tolerance for you driving a vehicle under age 21.2

Enhanced penalty BAC Levels

Most states have a heightened punishment for those who drive with a BAC at a between 0.10% and 0.20%.3 Arizona may not be as strict as New Jersey, which enhances penalties for those who drive with a 0.10% BAC, but it does enhance penalties for those who drive with a BAC of 0.15%.4 This is known as an extreme DUI and results in a $250.00 fine plus surcharges which add up fast, jail time, driver’s license revocation, a required ignition interlock device, the SR22 insurance requirement, up to five years of probation, and mandatory alcohol screening and education.5 Penalties only increase when your BAC is at a 0.20% or more in Arizona.6

Punishment for first DUI

Arizona considers a first time DUI to be a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a $250.00 fine plus surcharges, a minimum of 10 consecutive days in jail, a driver’s license suspension, a mandatory ignition interlock device, up to five years of probation, mandatory alcohol screening, possible vehicle forfeiture, the SR22 insurance requirement, and 8 points assessed to your permanent driving record.7 In contrast, New York has steeper base fines of $500 to $1,000, a six month driver’s license revocation, up to one year in jail, and an ignition interlock device requirement and SR22 insurance for your first DUI with a BAC of 0.08%.8 Arizona, like other states, also offers hardship licenses after your first DUI charge.9 This is a restricted driving permit that can be given to you if your DUI did not result in serious physical injury, if you were not driving without insurance, and have not had your driving privilege suspended within the last 84 months of the date of your DUI. A.R.S. § 28-1385(G).

Commercial motor vehicle drivers

Arizona regulates commercial motor vehicle drivers more strictly, as do most states. Specifically, every state regulates commercial motor vehicle drivers and each has a different more strict BAC level that corresponds with a DUI charge. Arizona follows what most states do under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommendations, which is that a commercial motor vehicle driver can be charged with a DUI with a BAC of 0.04% or more. A.R.S. §28-1381. This holds those with a commercial license to a higher standard than those who hold a non-commercial license.

Classifications of a DUI

Arizona is a strict state, but it does not have lesser charges for driving while you have a BAC under 0.08% unless there are other conditions present. Not every state uses the same terminology or charges only one form of impaired driving. Arizona uses DUI as a classification for driving under the influence. However, Arizona does not recognize certain charges like Colorado or New York’s Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) charges.10 The DWAI charge is a lesser charge that makes it a crime to drive with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08%. In Colorado, even being affected to the slightest degree so you are less able to drive than you ordinarily would have been able to is enough for a DWAI. C.R.S. §42-4-1301(g). In New York, the DWAI can land you with $300-500 in fines, up to 15 days in state penitentiary or county jail, and a 90 day license suspension. Certain states also use other terms only, such as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

Contact the experienced Phoenix DUI attorneys at Ariano & Reppucci for more information.

1 Comparing State DUI Laws, DUI.FINDLAW.COM, (last visited Jan. 5, 2015).

2 See id.

3 Id.

4 Id.

5 Arizona DUI Laws, DUI-USA.DRINKDRIVING.ORG, (last visited Jan. 5, 2015).

6 Id.

7 Id.

8 New York DWI Laws & Drunk Driving Penalties, DUI-USA.DRINKDRIVING.ORG, (last visited Jan. 5, 2015).

9 Arizona, HARDSHIPDRIVERSLICENSE.COM, (last visited Jan. 7, 2015).

10 DUI/DWI Laws By State, DUIPROCESS.COM, (last visited Jan. 5, 2015).