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Arizona - Understanding AZ DUI Laws

Updated on December 28, 2012

What to do if you are arrested for DUI in Arizona

Arizona has some of the toughest alcohol-related driving laws of any state in the country. Gone are the days where being arrested for drunk driving simply meant a fine or some community service hours.

Being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in AZ now results in jail time, severe fines, a mandatory ignition interlock device, and driver's license suspension.

Here is some information you may not know about being charged with impaired driving in the state of Arizona. Unlike many other states, Arizona typically charges cases as two unique charges to increase the likelihood that the state will get a conviction or get the defendant to agree to take a plea deal. The first charge involves alleging that the driver was operating a motor vehicle with a BAC or blood alcohol content above the legal limit of .08. In most DUI cases, the defense attorney for the driver can attempt to challenge that charge if the BAC test results come back near or slightly above the .08 level citing a number of factors and variables.

To make this harder, Arizona bundles the first charge with a second charge that alleges that the driver was operating a motor vehicle while "impaired to the slightest degree". This means that while the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is .08, the state can still charge and convict you of DUI if they can prove that you had any alcohol in your system whatsoever that may have impaired your ability to drive. If this sounds complicated and a little misleading to you, you are not alone! That's why if you've been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in AZ, you need to hire an established attorney with experience successfully handling DUI cases to represent your case.

Finding a Good Attorney

When it comes to hiring an attorney to represent you in your case, it is important to remember that bigger is not always better. Very often, the large law firms who mass market their services on the radio and on TV are so busy and do so much volume that much of your case may end up being handled (or in some cases mishandled) by lower level staff members instead of the attorney themselves. In fact, at the biggest firms you may never even meet the attorney assigned to your case!

If you want to have a better chance of achieving a favorable outcome, it is extremely important that you select a firm that will treat your case as more than just a number and do the work that could potentially uncover an issue that leads to a dismissal or a reduced charge. When interviewing a potential law firm, make sure you ask if their fees include retesting your blood results, expert witnesses if required, trial costs, officer interviews, and review of the police report. These are all important pieces of building a successful defense and you want to make sure the law firm you choose will check your case for issues on each of these levels.

Remember, you are the client and there is no need to settle on the first DUI defense attorney you contact. If you don't get what you are looking for or trust that the attorney will handle your case professionally, don't hesitate to call other law firms until you do. The outcome will affect your life for a long time to come so it is extremely important that you get the best possible representation.

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How Serious is a Conviction?

While driving under the influence of alcohol is not grouped into the same category as a violent offense or something involving the theft of property, it is a mistake to assume that a conviction does not carry serious consequences beyond fines and jail time. Any crime that results in a conviction will haunt you well into the future as this information appears in public records and shows up in pre-employment background screenings. Many people avoid hiring an attorney to represent them on their case thinking they can just serve the jail time, pay the fines and be done with it forever. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make!

Hiring competent representation for your case can potentially make the difference between whether or not you are able to get a job for years to come. Even if you were guilty of having alcohol in your system while operating a motor vehicle, a good attorney might be able to raise enough doubt about the circumstances of your case that a prosecutor might be willing to offer you a plea to a lesser offense. This is an important step you should take to minimize the amount of damage your case does to your life.

Once your case resolves, you will no longer be able to alter the outcome so time is of the essence. Now is the time to take action. You should make selecting a good attorney to handle your case a top priority. Arizona takes DUI cases very seriously and puts a lot of time and resources into prosecuting them. There are some battles in life that you should never attempt to fight on your own and this would definitely qualify as one of them!


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