In Arizona, it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle (1) while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, or a combination of each, if the person is impaired to the slightest degree; or (2) while the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle. Though most DUI’S are misdemeanors, their severity from a punishment standpoint depends upon whether the person has a blood alcohol of 0.15% or more but less than 0.20% (“extreme DUI”) or a blood alcohol of 0.20% or more (“super extreme DUI”). All misdemeanor DUI’S carry an incarceration penalty ranging from one day in jail up to a maximum of six months in jail. Some courts will consider “home detention” as an alternative to jail time. Punishment also typically involves the loss of driving privileges and a requirement that the convicted person equip their vehicle with a certified ignition interlock device. Payment of substantial fines is also required.
In the last year, Arizona courts have struggled with the implications of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”) in the context of DUI prosecutions. Simply put, medical marijuana use pursuant to the AMMA is lawful yet appears to be in conflict with that aspect of the DUI law which makes it a crime for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while the person has marijuana or its metabolite in his/her body. The Arizona Supreme Court sought to reconcile the apparent tension between the AMMA and the DUI law by ruling in a DUI case that the marijuana metabolite in the accused’s blood must be “capable of causing impairment” rather than “non-impairing marijuana metabolites.” Arizona law in this area will continue to develop in an effort to reconcile the ongoing tension between the AMMA and our DUI statutes.
Whereas a DUI is normally a misdemeanor, there are numerous circumstances under which it becomes a felony. For instance, a third DUI conviction within 84 months is a felony under which the convicted person must serve four months in the Arizona State Prison (not the Pima County Jail) following which the person is on supervised probation for a period of years. A DUI also becomes a felony if the DUI offender is driving with a person under 15 years of age in his/her vehicle. Finally, when the DUI offender is unfortunately involved in an accident where an individual is injured or killed, the applicable felony becomes either aggravated assault with a deadly weapon/dangerous instrument or homicide. In short, what starts out as a misdemeanor DUI can escalate into a serious felony under which the client would face mandatory prison time in the event of a conviction.
At Waterfall Economidis, Jim Stuehringer is the shareholder-attorney who represents clients on the many types of DUI matters, including those that escalate into serious felonies. Jim is rated an AV lawyer and was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2015 in the field of criminal defense. Jim has more than 40 years of experience defending clients in all facets of the criminal justice system and has successfully guided many clients to a favorable outcome in DUI’S involving misdemeanors and felonies.
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