Understanding Arizona DUI Law
Arizona DUI law can be confusing as there are five different types of misdemeanor DUI, as well as felony DUI. Additionally, there are a number of other offenses such as criminal damage, assault, or even homicide that can be charged in conjunction with a DUI. In this page we will specifically look at the different types of misdemeanor DUI under Arizona law.
There are five different types of misdemeanor DUI. In a single DUI incident, a person can be charged from one to all five DUI charges depending on the facts.
1. DUI - Impaired To The Slightest Degree -- A.R.S. § 18-1381(A)(1)
The statute prohibits driving (or being in physical control) while your ability to drive is impaired, even to the slightest degree. Note, the State does not need an actual breath or blood test to prove this charge. The statute only requires the State prove: 1) driving or physical control; 2) alcohol or drug intoxication; and 3) driving ability impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol or drugs. No actual BAC is required.
Prosecutors typically attempt to prove "impairment" with police testimony about field agility tests and observations of possible symptoms of alcohol consumption (such as blood shot eyes, sway, slurred speech, and driving behavior).
A common tactic Tucson Police Officers use to trick individuals into performing these physical agility tests (Officers call them Field Sobriety Tests or FSTs) is to tell suspects they want to see if they "are O. K. to drive." Truth be told, most officers have already decided a suspect is impaired and are merely conducting the tests to gather evidence for prosecution.
Keep in mind that the officers use a rigid set of guidelines to grade performance. They purposefully do not tell DUI suspects what they are looking for. DUI suspects are forced to perform the tests without specific knowledge of the grading criteria the officers are using. Not surprisingly, under these circumstances, it not uncommon for sober individuals to fail the tests.
Per Se Blood and Breath Alcohol Content DUIs
Arizona has a series of DUI laws addressing driving under the influence of alcohol at different blood or breath alcohol content levels. All of the statutes prohibit driving and or being in physical control of a vehicle with a specified alcohol content or greater. The blood or breath alcohol content reading must be within two hours of driving (or physical control). and the consumption of the alcohol must have occurred either prior to, or while driving (or physical control). The difference between the various statutes is primarily punitive in that with increasing blood or breath alcohol content levels, the minimum punishments also increase. For more information on punishment please take a look at our DUI Penalties page.
In Arizona, breath testing has traditionally been the preferred method of testing, however, over the past decade, many agencies have moved to blood testing. Here in Pima County, blood tests are preferred by the Pima County Sheriff's Department, The Department of Public Safety, Oro Valley Police, and Marana Police.
Once blood has been drawn, it is tested in a police crime laboratory on a machine called a "gas chromatograph" using a process called "head space gas chromatography." At trial, prosecutors will subpoena the criminalist who tested the blood to testify about the testing procedure and the test results. Regardless of which test is conducted, it should be noted that neither test is always reliable and knowledgeable DUI defense attorneys can attack the accuracy of the results.
2. DUI - .08 or Above - A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(1)
This statute prohibits driving or being in physical control of a vehicle with blood or breath alcohol content of .08 or above. The statute is typically what most people think about when asked what it means to get a "DUI." The important thing to remember about this statute is that it does not matter how you feel when you get in the car and drive. Impairment and whether you feel "O.K." to drive is completely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether you are above or below .08.
3. Extreme DUI - .15 or Above - A.R.S. §28-1382(A)(1)
This statute makes it unlawful for a person to drive (or be in actual physical control) a vehicle in Arizona if the person has an alcohol concentration within two hours of driving (or being in actual physical control of the vehicle) with an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, and the alcohol concentration results from alcohol consumed either before or while driving (or being in actual physical control).
4. "Super" Extreme DUI - .20 or Above - A.R.S. §28-1382(A)(2)
This statute makes it unlawful for a person to drive (or be in actual physical control) of a vehicle in Arizona if the person has an alcohol concentration within two hours of driving (or being in actual physical control of the vehicle) with an alcohol concentration of 0.20 or more, and the alcohol concentration results from alcohol consumed either before or while driving (or being in actual physical control).
DUI - Drugs
5. DUI - Driving with an Illegal Drug or its Metabolite In Body - A.R.S. §28-1381(A)(3)
In Arizona, a DUI suspect does not need to be impaired or under the influence to be convicted of DUI. Absurd as this sounds, it is true. Arizona lawmakers have made it illegal to drive with the metabolite of an illegal drug in your system. Metabolites may be active or inactive. Active metabolites are capable of impairing. Inactive metabolites are not. Our courts have held that in order to be convicted of this form of DUI, the metabolite must be active. This sounds good, but keep in mind, while the metabolite must be active, our lawmakers have set no per se limits. Any amount of the illegal drug, or its metabolite, in the blood is illegal. Because of this, a person could have a very small amount of an illegal drug in their system and not be impaired, but nonetheless be found guilty of DUI.