Mesa DUI Attorney
Some drivers mistakenly believe driving under the influence (DUI) is nothing more than a traffic infraction. This could not be farther from the truth. DUI is a serious criminal charge, and it can have life-changing consequences.
Arizona is known nationally for having some of the harshest DUI penalties, including stiff fines, jail, probation, license suspension, and driver monitoring. Court-ordered punishment is only part of the story, however; a conviction for DUI may cause an offender to lose their job or future professional opportunities, make their insurance premiums skyrocket, impact their family and personal relationships, and tarnish their reputation.
If you have been charged with DUI in Mesa, speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Ryan McPhie served as a Deputy County Prosecutor for Maricopa County, and he has years of experience in DUI criminal defense. Contact McPhie Law today at (480) 400-5555 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to serve you.
How Does Arizona Define DUI?
While drinking and driving is the most common cause of DUI, drivers using others substances may also be charged with DUI.
Most states share a similar definition of DUI. However, some variance exists. Under Arizona law, the legal definition of DUI makes it illegal for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in any of the following circumstances:
- While under the influence of alcohol, drugs, a vapor releasing substance, or any combination that causes even slight impairment;
- If the consumption of alcohol before or during driving results in an alcohol concentration of .08 or more within two hours of driving or being in control of a vehicle;
- Being under the influence of cannabis, cocaine, dangerous drugs, or their derivatives; or
- If a driver holds a commercial driver license (CDL) and is driving a commercial vehicle with an alcohol concentration greater than .04.
Although the legal blood alcohol limit is .08 for drivers who don’t hold a commercial license, if a driver’s alcohol concentration is more than .05 and less than 0.08, law enforcement has the discretion to charge someone with DUI. In cases with additional supporting evidence of impairment, a driver may be charged with DUI even if their alcohol concentration is less than 0.08.
Types of DUIs in Arizona
Under Arizona law, charges for DUI depend on a number of factors, including level of intoxication and whether it is a first or repeat offense. Such circumstances help determine whether a driver may be charged with one of the following types of DUI:
Standard DUI. If a driver’s blood or breath alcohol content is more than .08 but less than 0.15, law enforcement will usually charge them with Standard DUI. The penalties for conviction for a standard DUI for a first-time offender may include a minimum of 10 days in jail, unless the driver completes a court-ordered alcohol or drug screening, education, or treatment program. In these cases, the judge may suspend all but one day of jail. The minimum fine is $250 in addition to $1,000 of assessment fees, and the additional charges for an ignition interlock device (IID) and completion of an approved traffic survival school course. Offenders who are convicted of standard DUI on a second offense must serve 90 days in jail. That sentence may be reduced to 30 days after a treatment program. Minimum fines increase to $500 with two $1,250 assessment fees.
Extreme DUI. If a driver’s blood or breath alcohol content is more than .15 but less than 0.20, they may be charged with Extreme DUI. The penalties for conviction for a first-time offender include 30 days in jail. The judge may reduce that sentence to nine days if the offender completes a court-ordered alcohol or drug screening or a treatment program. The minimum fine is $250 in addition to $2,250 in assessment fees, and charges for installing an IID and attending traffic school. Offenders on the second conviction for Extreme DUI must spend 120 days in jail with no chance of reduction. Fines and assessments also increase.
Super Extreme DUI. If a driver’s blood or breath alcohol content is more than 0.20 they may be charged with Super Extreme DUI. The penalties for conviction include a minimum of 45 days in jail, that might be reduced to two weeks after completion of screening or treatment. The minimum fine is $1,000 with additional assessment fees of more than $2,000, and costs of an IID and traffic school. Conviction for the second offense of Super Extreme DUI carries six months of jail time, without chance of reduction, and fines and assessments that total more than $4,000.
Aggravated DUI. Certain circumstances during an arrest can lead to an Aggravated DUI charge, that carries the harshest penalties of all types of DUIs in Arizona. These include a driver who is charged with:
- A third DUI—of any type—within seven years;
- DUI while their license is suspended, canceled, or revoked; and/or
- DUI with a child under age 15 in the vehicle.
Aggravated DUI is a felony. Convictions carry severe penalties that include:
- Minimum four month prison sentence;
- Three-year license revocation;
- Required use of an ignition interlock device (IID);
- Required drug and alcohol screening and treatment program;
- Fines and assessments in excess of $4,000, plus IID installation charges, and payment for screening and treatment; and
- Supervised probation upon release.
Defense Strategies for a DUI Charge in Mesa
Every DUI case is unique, and the applicable defenses vary based on individual circumstances. However, some common defense strategies a DUI attorney might use include:
- Lack of physical control. Under Arizona law, a driver must have had actual physical control of a vehicle when they were intoxicated for a court to convict for DUI. In cases where multiple people were in a vehicle and there was an accident, it may be difficult to determine who was actually driving. In other cases, police may find someone passed out in their vehicle and charge them with DUI, when the driver might have made the choice to “sleep it off” rather than attempt to drive while intoxicated. It is difficult for the prosecution to prove “actual physical control” absent clear evidence of active driving.
- No reason for a police stop. Law enforcement cannot stop a vehicle unless there is “probable cause” (such as the driver committed a traffic violation) or reasonable suspicion the driver is under the influence. If a driver was not behaving erratically, was following the speed limit and other traffic regulations, and there was no mechanical reason (such as a burned out headlight or brake light) for a stop, a defendant may argue for dismissal on the basis of insufficient grounds for a stop.
- Lack of evidence. When a police officer has probable cause and stops a driver who is suspected of intoxication they will typically conduct further investigation with field sobriety tests. The officer will look for physical signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and difficulty with balance and coordination. If there is no physical indication of alcohol or drug use, an officer may not have probable cause for an arrest.
- Issues with the breathalyzer reading or blood test. All officers administering breath tests or taking blood samples must follow Arizona regulations. Failure to strictly follow these rules may mean the accuracy of the tests and results can be challenged.
- Violation of rights. When a driver is arrested and charged with DUI, they retain certain protected rights. Arresting officers must communicate and ensure a defendant understands their rights by reading them a statement that is known as “Miranda Rights.” If law enforcement violates these rights, the case may be dismissed.
- Medical issues. Some drivers who have medical conditions might appear to be under the influence, and some medications might even cause them to fail a breath test. Drowsiness, neurological problems, and prescription medications might cause slurred speech. Diabetics are especially at risk for registering on a breathalyzer; when ketones in the bloodstream ferment, diabetics have odorous breath that may read as alcohol on a breath test.
Contact a Mesa Attorney Who Knows How to Fight DUI Charges
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Mesa, you will face serious penalties if you are convicted. You need a dedicated defense attorney to advocate for you and your future. Don’t let a mistake ruin your life; get the right person on your side to ensure your case gets the best outcome possible.
Whether you are still in jail, have been released, or you are seeking an attorney for a loved one, let the experienced legal team at McPhie Law review your case. The best defense takes time, so the sooner you take charge of your case, the better your results may be. Contact McPhie Law today at (480) 400-5555 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to serve you.