Interviewer: So what are the different levels of DUI charges possible? I’ve heard of extreme or super extreme or things like that.
Munoz: There are a number of possible DUI charges in Arizona. The most minimal DUI charge is the DUI, impaired to the slightest degree and the DUI over .08 blood alcohol concentration. They are both Class 1 misdemeanors and the minimum term, if convicted, is ten days in jail, nine of those may be suspended if the person completes alcohol classes.
The next level up in terms of severity and consequence is an extreme DUI. That is where a person is found to be driving with a blood alcohol concentration over a .15. The minimum jail term on an extreme DUI is 30 days in jail. There are some options to make it easier on the person in terms of work release, work furlough and possibly home detention, depending on the jurisdiction.
Then, there is another extreme charge that is only a few years old, and we call it the super extreme, but it’s really just an extreme DUI and that’s where your blood alcohol level is over a .20. The super extreme DUI has a minimum, if convicted, of 45 days in jail. As the severity of the DUI goes up, the fine amounts go up as well. The regular DUI and the two extreme DUIs are all Class 1 misdemeanors.
There is also felony DUIs. Felony DUIs are called aggravated DUIs. The first felony DUI is an aggravated DUI Class 6 felony. That is where a person is found to be driving under the influence of alcohol, and they have a child under 15 years of age in the vehicle with them. That is a Class 6 felony and a very serious offence. The next aggravated DUI is the most serious in Arizona of all the DUIs. It’s called an aggravated DUI, and this one is a Class 4 felony. There are a few types of this offense.
One version of an aggravated DUI Class 4 felony is where a person is driving while their privilege to drive is either suspended, cancelled or revoked. Another version of an aggravated DUI Class 4 is if a person is caught driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and they’re supposed to have an ignition interlock device on their vehicle from a prior DUI. That is also an aggravated DUI.
And then, the last aggravated DUI possibility is where a person gets their third DUI within a seven year period. All of these are aggravated DUI Class 4 felonies, and if convicted, the minimum sentence, if convicted, is probation with four months in the Department of Corrections, and that means four months in prison.
Interviewer: In terms of classes of misdemeanors and felonies, how does the scale work? Is one worse than a five or vice versa?
Munoz: Yes, misdemeanors are considered minor criminal offenses. Most job applications ask whether or not you’ve been convicted of a felony, not a misdemeanor. There are three classes of misdemeanor. The most severe is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum penalty possible is six months in jail with a $2500 fine plus surcharge. A Class 2 misdemeanor, which is four months in jail and fines, and the lowest level misdemeanor is a Class 3 misdemeanor, where the maximum is 30 days in jail. In terms of felonies, the range goes from a Class 1 felony being the very highest all the way down to a Class 6 felony which is the very lowest form of felony.
Interviewer: Is there any way to mitigate the minimum jail time required in a DUI case?
Munoz: Yes. DUI cases can be fought. An experienced DUI lawyer knows that there is many things to look for when fighting a DUI. One, you have to look to see if the traffic stop was made appropriately. If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to make the stop, then it’s possible that maybe the case could be dismissed or evidence suppressed, based on that stop. The officer also has to have probable cause to make an arrest. From there, a good DUI lawyer is going to look at how the blood or breath test was done, how the field sobriety tests were done. A lot of these penalties, these charges that people are facing, can be mitigated in their benefit with an experienced lawyer who knows how to look for all the details in these cases and knows how to fight them.