Do you need a DUI lawyer in Phoenix? DUI is one of the most common charges in Phoenix and an attorney will give you the best chance of a dismissal, a reduced charged and/or sentence, or obtaining a not guilty verdict. Since a conviction can result in license suspension, fines, insurance surcharges, and even mandatory jail time, your entire lifestyle is at stake in your case. Last year, there were more than 27,000 drunk and drugged driving arrests in Arizona. This represented an increase of about 40% over the previous year. These figures demonstrate that drunk and drugged driving enforcement efforts are on the increase. Penalties for those convicted of DUI and DWI are also on the rise throughout the country.
At The Feldman Law Firm, we specialize in criminal defense, including substantial experience representing clients charged with all manner of drunk and drugged driving offenses. The DUI laws in Arizona are complex, and given the possible penalties, this is not the time to go it alone, or to be represented by anyone other than the very best.
What is considered a DUI in Arizona?
There are a number of different impaired driving statutes in Arizona. The particular charge and the potential penalties will depend upon a number of factors. They include:
- Your blood alcohol level (BAC);
- The existence of prior DUI convictions;
- Whether you are driving on a suspended, cancelled or revoked driver’s license;
- Whether you are driving on a restricted license as a result of a prior DUI conviction; and
- Whether you are driving with a passenger who is under the age of fifteen.
The first thing you should understand about the law in Arizona is that in order to be convicted, it is not necessary that the state prove you have a particular BAC, that you are “drunk”, “wasted”, or extremely impaired. Under A.R.S. 28-1381, it is an offense to drive or to be in actual physical control (APC) of a vehicle
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- if you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two, and impaired to even the slightest degree;
- if your blood or breath alcohol level is 0.08 or more;
- if there is a drug (as defined in the statute) or its metabolite in your body;
- In the case of a commercial vehicle requiring a CDL, if your blood or breath alcohol level is 0.04 or more.
So if you are impaired “to the slightest degree” as a result of alcohol, a dangerous drug, a narcotic drug, and even prescription medication, you can be convicted of driving under the influence. With regard to prescriptions, it is no defense that the prescription is valid, that you are lawfully in possession of the drug, and that you are taking the drug as prescribed by your doctor. Call Phoenix DUI lawyer Adam Feldman today!
How Does My Blood Alcohol Level Affect the Charge Against Me?
While it is not necessary to have a particular BAC in order for a charge to result in a conviction, your BAC is relevant to the specifics of the charge against you, and to the potential penalties if you are convicted. Initially, the law states that your BAC gives rise to certain presumptions:
- A BAL of 0.05 or less leads to a presumption that you were not impaired by alcohol;
- If your BAL is above 0.05, but under 0.08, no presumption arises one way or the other; and
- A BAL of 0.08 or greater leads to a presumption that you were under the influence.
In addition, special rules apply if your BAC is equal to or greater than 0.15 or equal to or greater than 0.20. In both cases, a conviction will result in enhanced penalties for a conviction.
What Are the Penalties if I am Convicted of a DUI?
For a first time DUI conviction, that is, the first conviction under the statute during the preceding eighty-four months (known as the “lookback” period), and who is convicted of misdemeanor driving under the influence, the penalties are:
- Jail time of not less than 10 consecutive days. All but one day of the sentence may be suspended “if the person completes a court ordered alcohol or other drug screening, education or treatment program.”
- A fine of not less than $250.
- Community restitution, if ordered by the court.
- An additional $500 “assessment.”
- Revocation of your driver’s license for not less than 90 days.
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on any vehicle which you operate, at your cost, commencing on the date of the reinstatement of your driver’s license.
- Eight points on your license.
The potential impact of even a first-time conviction is obviously substantial. Just imagine trying to go about your daily life without a driver’s license, or explaining to co-workers, family and friends the presence of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car. Add to that the financial impact of a conviction, and you get some idea of how it can turn your life upside down. Among other things, SR22 insurance is not easy to find or easy to afford after a conviction.
For a second time DUI conviction within the look back period, the penalties increase. They include a jail sentence of up to 90 days; a one-year license revocation; a fine of not less than $500; an additional assessment of $1,250; installation of an IID; and the mandatory imposition of at least 30 hours of community restitution.
What Is Aggravated DUI?
Aggravated driving or APC of a vehicle while under the influence include a number of possible variations of a drunk or drugged driving charge. Those variations include:
- A conviction while your license is suspended, canceled or revoked for a prior conviction for driving or in APC of a vehicle while under the influence.
- A conviction for a third or subsequent conviction within 84 months;
- A conviction for driving under the influence with a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle; or
- A conviction while under a requirement that your vehicle be equipped with an IID.
The potential penalties for aggravated driving under the influence will differ depending upon the specifics of your case, but no matter which section of the statute your conviction is based upon, the consequences are significant. Among others, those consequences can include a minimum of four months in jail; completion of an alcohol or drug screening, education or treatment program; and additional fines and assessments. While simple DUI is a misdemeanor, aggravated DUI is a felony, the class of which is likewise dependent upon the particular section of the statute which the offense falls under. A conviction under section 1, 2 or 4 is a class 4 felony, and a conviction under section 3 is a class 6 felony.
What Is Extreme DUI?
Mandatory minimum 30 days in jail
Minimum $250 fine
Assessments totaling $2,000
Mandatory installation of an IID
Are There Any Defenses to a Drunk Driving or Drugged Driving Charge?
The list of possible defenses to a drunk or drugged driving charge is extensive, and begins where most such cases originate – at the time your vehicle is stopped. The police are not at liberty to stop vehicles on a whim. Generally, your vehicle may not lawfully be stopped unless the police have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is underfoot. The activity may be as minor as a traffic violation or a broken headlight, but the law protects citizens against stops that may be pretextual in nature, and stops that are initiated because of the driver’s race or other characteristics will not be tolerated. If there is no reasonable suspicion, the stop may be ruled unlawful, and any evidence obtained as a result will be inadmissible in court. This can include breath tests.
Sobriety Check Points
In the case of a sobriety checkpoint, reasonable suspicion is not necessary. But once again, the whim of a police officer will not suffice to justify a stop. In these cases, even though checkpoints are not per se illegal, there are rules that law enforcement must follow in order to safeguard the public against discriminatory action by the government. As a general rule, when checkpoints are established, they are supposed to be based upon the establishment of an operational plan, which is defined by supervisory personnel, and which includes a “neutral” formula setting forth the basis for which cars that come into contact with the checkpoint will be stopped. An example would be every third, fourth or similar number of cars. If no plan is established, or if the plan is not followed, the stop can be challenged in court.
Even if the stop does not provide a defense in your case, that is not the end of the inquiry. In attempting to establish impairment, and your BAC, the police need to provide evidence. In the case of alcohol, this may, and usually does, involve the attempted introduction of breath test results. With drugs, it may or may not include blood test results. In either case, the results may be challenged. The challenge may involve the way the test was administered, the reliability of the testing device, and/or the qualifications of the person administering the test. Breath-testing devices must, for example, be periodically calibrated to insure the accuracy of the results. These devices can yield inaccurate results for a number of reasons, including the presence of foreign substances and the deterioration of the device over time. Moreover, the fact that the person administering the test is a police officer does not in and of itself mean that the test was properly administered, or that the test results are accurate.
Drug Recognition Experts
Evidence of impairment can also come in the form of testimony by a so-called Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). In the case of drugs in particular, there is no set “amount” of a particular drug in your system that will lead to a conclusion, or even a presumption, regarding impairment, so DRE testimony becomes a crucial element in those cases. But there are many people who consider themselves DRE’s. Their qualifications can be challenged, and along with them the evidence they seek to present. The vast majority of law enforcement personnel who consider themselves DRE’s are not even certified as such by any recognized authority on the subject.
Field Sobriety Tests
Another series of possible defense relates to the results of Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s). There have been three SFST’s developed and recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They are:
- One-leg stand;
- Walk-and-turn; and
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN).
The first two tests measure coordination. If you fail either or both of these tests, an officer will take the position that you are intoxicated. The reasoning behind this logic is flawed; it presumes that intoxicated people are uncoordinated, and that if you have failed a coordination test, you are intoxicated. This is upside down logic, and even assuming you failed one or both of these tests, there are numerous reasons unrelated to the consumption of alcohol or drugs, that can adequately explain the reasons why. Similarly, the HGN test measures eye movement. There are physical characteristics, as well as medical conditions, that will cause a person to “fail” the HGN test – reasons which, once again, have nothing to do with alcohol, drugs, or, for that matter, with impairment. The approval of these tests by the NHTSA does not mean that they must be accepted, nor does it mean that they were properly administered.
DUI Attorney Adam Feldman Can Help You Fight Charges
If you are facing a DUI charge, or a charge involving driving under the influence of drugs, remember that the ramifications of an arrest are immediate. If you are arrested, you will be served with a notice of suspension, effective 15 days after it is served, and absent further action on your part, your license will be suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles before your case is even heard. You need to file a timely request for a hearing with the motor vehicle department in order to head off the driver’s license suspension by MVD. Administrative license suspension hearings can be fought and they can be won with the right attorney at your side.
At the same time, your court case will proceed, and you need legal assistance to understand the charges against you, to review the evidence in the possession of the prosecutor, to interview witnesses, to gather evidence in your defense, and, where appropriate, to hire expert witnesses to testify on your behalf.
The earlier you retain an experienced attorney, the more time will be available to assemble whatever evidence may be necessary to defend against the charges. At The Feldman Law Firm, we are experienced at developing these and other defenses and exploiting the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. The earlier you come to us, the more time we have to counter the charges, and the better your chance of a dismissal, a reduced charge or a not guilty verdict. Call us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation, and to learn how The Feldman Law Firm can make a difference in your case.