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Posted on March 16, 2018 in Drunk Driving

When Is Drunk Driving a Felony?

Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, and, if you find yourself on the other side of the law, you need help from an experienced Phoenix DUI attorney since Arizona is a zero-tolerance state. This means that arresting a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under .08 is legal if the officer believes alcohol or drugs have impaired the driver. The exception is if the BAC is under .05.

Most of the time, DUIs are a misdemeanor, but, in some cases, intoxicated driving may come with a felony conviction. What the law calls “extreme” or “aggravated” DUIs are felonies under Arizona statutes. Here is what you need to know about the difference between misdemeanor DUI and felony DUI.

Arizona’s DUI Tiers

Arizona has four classifications, or tiers, of DUIs. They are standard, extreme, super extreme, and aggravated:

  • A standard DUI involves a driver with a BAC of .08 or believed impaired. Commercial vehicle limit is .04 and underage is .00.
  • An extreme DUI charge is for a driver with a BAC of .15 or higher.
  • Super extreme DUI is the charge when the BAC is .20 or higher.
  • Aggravated DUI: There are several ways a DUI offense escalates to an aggravated offense:
  • Driving with a canceled, suspended, or revoked license
  • There have been 2 other DUIs in the past 7 years
  • A child under the age of 15 is in the vehicle during the commission of the DUI
  • Driving under the influence with an interlock device installed in your vehicle

DUI Penalties

A charge of standard, extreme, or super extreme DUI will result in a class 1 misdemeanor charge. The consequence for this ranges from 10 to 180 days of jail time and a fine ranging from $1500 to $4650, along with other possible restrictions and suspensions.

Most aggravated DUI charges are class 4 felonies. Driving impaired with a child under 15 in the vehicle is a less severe charge of class 6 felony. The penalties for aggravated DUI charges vary greatly but usually entail at least four months of prison time and at least $4,000 in fines.

DUI While Not Driving

Arizona has very strict DUI laws. Technically, you can be arrested for a DUI even if the car is off and you’re not driving. Police can charge someone who is sitting in the driver’s seat holding the vehicle’s keys with a DUI. The keys can even be in the person’s pocket. The point is that there was the potential to drive because you were in control of the vehicle.

If you need to sleep it off in your car, it’s safest to crawl into the back seat. If the driver’s seat is the most comfortable, put the keys in the trunk so you can demonstrate to the officer that you don’t have access to them. Police can even charge bicyclists for biking under the influence.

Submitting to a Breathalyzer Test

Technically, refusing a breathalyzer test is legal, but the officer can suspend your license for a year if you refuse. It’s called an “admin per se” suspension and can be for two years if you’ve already refused a breathalyzer within the past seven years. Once you refuse, the officer will request a warrant to issue a blood test instead. Usually, the authorities grant such a warrant in less than an hour, so it generally isn’t enough time for an intoxicated person to sober up.

Legal Protection

The consequences of felony and misdemeanor DUIs can be devastating. If you’re facing DUI charges, securing legal representation right away can make a big difference for the rest of your life. Contact the Phoenix defense attorneys at Orent Law Offices for a consultation on your case.