Phoenix DUI Lawyer
Silva & Fontes is the experienced, Phoenix criminal defense firm that always goes the extra mile to help you achieve the best result for your personal situation when you’re charged with DUI.
Arizona has some of the toughest Driving under the influence (DUI) in the nation, which could significantly impact your future. A conviction for DUI will require that you serve a period of incarceration, pay significant fines, make it difficult to obtain employment, cause you to lose your driver’s license temporarily or permanently, render you ineligible for professional licenses and expose you to immigration authorities if you are not a citizen of the U.S. That’s why you should never accept a plea for a DUI case without speaking to an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer about launching a defense to the charges.
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Arizona’s DUI Law states, in relevant part:
“It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state under any of the following circumstances: 1. While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree[; or,] 2. If the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle . . . .”
This means that you can be arrested if you’re stopped and a test shows your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 or higher. If you refuse the breathalyzer test at the scene, it’s a violation of Arizona’s implied consent law and you can still be arrested based on the officer’s observance of your behavior at the scene or your performance on a field sobriety test (FST.) If your blood alcohol concentration is between 0.08 and 0.14, you may be charged with “ordinary DUI.” Blood alcohol concentrations, from 0.15 to 0.19 are called “extreme DUI” and blood alcohol concentrations of 0.20 or greater, are referred to as “super extreme DUI” and carry increasing penalties such as:
- Suspension of Driver’s License;
- Large Fines;
- Traffic Survival Course;
- Victim Impact Panels;
- Ignition Interlock Device and
- Community Service.
“Aggravated DUI” is a DUI with additional circumstances such as:
- Driving on the sidewalk or the wrong way down the street;
- DUI while driving with an installed ignition interlock device;
- Third charge within 84 months;
- DUI with a child under 15 in the car and
- Driving with a revoked or suspended license.
Aggravated DUI’s can be charged as felonies that carry heavy amounts of jail and prison time, huge fines and other severe penalties, especially if you have past convictions for DUI. That’s why it’s important to speak to an experienced Phoenix DUI Lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest.
DUI Charges and Penalties in Arizona
There are over ten different types of DUI charges in Arizona, each with their own requirements and penalties. The different factors include:
- The level of alcohol in your system, as determined by a breath or blood test;
- The status/validity of your driver’s license at the time of the incident;
- The substance of influence, whether alcohol or drugs;
- Whether minor children were in the car at the time of the incident;
- Whether you have been convicted of DUI in the past;
- Your observed manner of driving.
Underage DUI in Arizona
Underage DUI applies to those people under 21 years old, and only applies to the equivalent of a regular DUI with a blood alcohol reading between 0.08 and 0.14. It’s a Class 2 misdemeanor that does not require jail time or fines. However, a conviction for DUI does cause a mandatory two-year suspension of the underage driver’s license which could make it difficult or impossible to get to work or school.
Defenses to DUI in Arizona
DUI cases can be difficult to address; but there are ways to address each case. An experienced Phoenix DUI attorney may help you present a wide range of defenses to DUI in Arizona including:
- Right to Counsel: Your right to remain silent means that you’re not required to speak with the officers when they stop you for DUI. If you ask for an attorney, the officers must stop questioning you until you have a lawyer present. If your right to counsel is violated, the charges may be dismissed.
- Illegal Stop: If the police stopped you without a reasonable suspicion that you’ve violated the law, the stop may be illegal. If the stop is not lawful, some evidence against including your breathalyzer or blood test may be inadmissible in court and cause your case to be dismissed.
- Inaccurate Breath Testing: The breath testing devices used in Arizona are required to undergo periodic testing and maintenance to ensure proper functioning. If the tests and maintenance are not conducted and recorded for examination by the defense, the accuracy of the readings may be questioned. Expert testimony by a criminologist can also create reasonable doubt about breath test accuracy due to food ingested, health conditions and other factors.
- Lack of Probable Cause: If the police arrest you without enough evidence of insobriety, all the evidence collected is not admissible and the prosecution may dismiss the charges.
- Not Driving or in Actual Physical Control: In order to sustain a conviction for DUI, the government must prove that the charged person was actually driving a vehicle while intoxicated or “in actual physical control” of the vehicle, if it was not being driven at that time. For example, if you were sitting in a stopped vehicle and had no keys for the car or standing outside a vehicle when the police arrived after an accident, it could be difficult to prove you were driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle.
- Right to an Independent Test: The law of the state of Arizona requires persons accused of DUI a receive a “fair chance” to an independent blood test. Failure to provide this opportunity can lead to dismissal of your case.
- Implied Consent Violation: Arizona’s implied consent law provides that if you refuse to consent to a breathalyzer or blood test, your driver’s license will be suspended. If the police force you to do a breath or blood test without your consent, the evidence may be considered obtained without a warrant and is therefore inadmissible.
- Challenge to FST Administration: The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has standardized the field sobriety tests (FSTs) that are used throughout the country. If the officer did not properly conduct the test, the evidence could be excluded.
- Failure to Properly Observe For Fifteen Minutes: In Arizona, a breath test result is admissible only if the officer carefully watches the person accused of DUI for a fifteen minutes prior to administering the test to ensure that they do not eat, drink, smoke, burp or vomit before taking the test. If the officers get distracted, look away or talk on the phone, the admissibility of your breath test can be called into question.