DUI Law & Policy in Arizona

Being suspected of DUI in any state carries hazards of lifelong consequences. A DUI charge can be harder to beat and can carry more serious consequences than many realize. In fact, the laws throughout the country have evolved over time to streamline the process of arresting and convicting DUI suspects. This applies to even a DUI charge based on a relatively innocent circumstance, or on a rare lapse of judgment in which no harm was done.

To make it more serious, penalties are mandatory and a judge can’t waive them, even if he can see that you are unlikely in the future to be a danger on the road. Those mandatory penalties range from the substantially disruptive to devastating — from loss of driving privileges and having to install embarrassing ignition interlock devices, to life-altering prison sentences.

The legal definitions of impairment are both broad and strict; they can make it a crime to drive after even just one drink, as commonly served. The police, evidence and prosecution procedures expedite conviction. And the sentences are harsh.

On the other hand, there is little evidence that any of these policies deter the most serious threats to safety on our roads: recidivism – that is, the chronic behavior of repeat drunk drivers. For those who need addiction treatment, penalties that ruin their jobs and family lives do little to help.

Nowhere are these things more true than in Arizona. Driving under the influence is one of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes in the state.

Some consider Arizona to have the toughest DUI laws in the country – laws that make convicting a person easy, defending yourself harder, and sentences more extreme.

That being said, in 2012 there were some changes in the Arizona DUI law – those changes gave at least a little more flexibility in sentencing (such as allowing house-arrest for part of your sentence). But at the same time they took away more of the DUI suspect’s rights, such as the right to a jury trial in some cases. So if you google “harshest DUI laws,” Arizona still comes up in the top 5 or 10 on many lists.

It is important to handle a DUI case very carefully, and with an Arizona DUI lawyer on your side, from beginning to end. If you don’t, a single mistake can end up changing your life forever.

Because rules of evidence and procedure that would normally protect you from wrongful conviction have been relaxed for DUI cases, one constitutional law scholar and former DUI prosecutor has coined the phrase “DUI Exception to the Constitution.” (The premise is that in order to streamline the process of convicting and imprisoning suspects, “DUI exceptions” are made to rights and protections given to U.S. citizens by the constitution, especially regarding the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.)*

In our view, when the punishments are very severe, the protections given to suspects should be even more scrupulous. But in the case of DUI law, both categories are tilted against the defendant in several ways.

Every driver trusts in the courtesy and conscientiousness of their fellow citizens on the road. Taking undue risks with other people’s safety is nothing to treat lightly.

If you operate a vehicle when you’re not sure you’re in shape to handle driving situations safely, that is fundamentally unfair to others. It can be a tragic mistake whose damage to many lives goes far beyond your own legal troubles.

But two wrongs do not make a right, and in Arizona anyone caught up in the aggressive DUI dragnet needs vigorous representation. You need to avoid being used as an example to bolster conviction statistics. Instead, you should be given a chance for what’s best for your individual case.

That is why you need a Tuscon DUI lawyer who knows DUI law, police procedure and prosecution practice inside and out. An attorney who has a track record of successful DUI defenses is essential for anyone facing the possibility of a DUI conviction.