Maricopa County is a beautiful place to visit, drive though, and live in, but if you are stopped for a DUI, it quickly loses its charm. Although the laws may seem similar to DUI laws elsewhere, they are not. DUI enforcement and penalties, unlike the weather, are not laid back. In general, the county, which includes the largely populated Phoenix, is very aggressive in its DUI policies. It has redefined the definition of driving under the influence, collecting evidence, and suspending licenses.
One unique aspect of Arizona DUI law is the fact that it does not require a blood alcohol level over the legal limit to convict people. The state has decided that all driving or physical control of a vehicle that occurs under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal. This means that a high blood alcohol level may be helpful in proving that someone is under the influence of alcohol, but it is by no means the only way to prove it. The legal limit is .08% BAC but there have been convictions of drivers with as little as .05% BAC.
In addition to vague definitions of intoxication, Arizona also stands out in its definition of driving. Physical control of a vehicle is defined as having the ability to drive a car. This means intoxicated drivers in a parked vehicle can and have been charged with DUI. It does not matter if the car was actually moving.
Even though the state does not solely base decisions on blood alcohol levels, blood tests can hardly be considered undervalued. In the Maricopa county cities of Phoenix and Tempe police use mobile drunk driving processing units that include phlebotomist that come to the scene for blood alcohol level tests.
Maricopa county also regularly trains some of its officers to become phlebotomists.
Drivers have a legal right to refuse chemical tests such as a breathalyzers, blood tests or urine tests, but in Maricopa County that will not get you very far. Officers in this county are prepared and able to get speedy warrants that will allow a forced chemical test. The metro DUI enforcement unit out of Phoenix are specialist in making sure search warrants are quickly issued in DUI cases. Refusing the blood test will hurt you in court, lengthen your license suspension, and most likely not work The DUI enforcement unit trains other departments in Maricopa county, so expect the same county-wide.
Arizona also has its own unique spin on license suspensions. They will either suspend your license initially through the Department of Motor Vehicles, or they will suspend it with a DUI conviction. Suspensions by the Department of Motor Vehicles is immediate for any blood alcohol test with a result of .08% BAC or greater. They also occur after a refusal to take a chemical test. Suspensions by conviction will only occur after a DUI conviction, and are invalid if the driver already received a conviction through DMV. This process gives the State two opportunities to suspend licenses.
Arizona divides its misdemeanor DUI charges into three levels. The first level of DUI is impairment to the slightest degree. It can include blood alcohol levels under ,08%. The second level is based on a test that results in BAC of .08% to .14%. The third level, called extreme DUI, are reserved for blood alcohol levels of .15% BAC and greater. Aggravated DUI charges of multiple offenses, minors in the vehicle, or DUI with a suspended license are considered felonies.
Maricopa County is known in Arizona for its strict enforcement of DUI laws For instance, Phoenix is known for its aversion to plea bargains and Scottsdale is known for its aggressive blood testing. Some penalties for DUI in Arizona include:
- Up to 180 days in jail with a minimum requirement of 10-45 days for a first offense
- Fines and fees ranging from $1,800.00 to $3,250.00 days for a first offense
- License suspension of at least 90 days for a first offense
- Required ignition interlock device for at least a year for a first offense
If you are facing DUI charges in Maricopa County, Arizona, plan to attend either the local municipal courts in cities such as Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, or Scottsdale, or Justice Courts if you were not in city limits. Felony charges are handled in Maricopa county Superior Courts.