www.attorneyyellowpages.com - Attorney Yellow Pages
Posted 09/28/2022 in Criminal Defense by Colin Bell

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Across the US, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If police officers believe you’re driving while intoxicated, you can be arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence. A DUI carries serious penalties.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, here’s what you should know about the charges and penalties you might be facing, and the legal process ahead.  


You can be arrested for a DUI if officers have probable cause to believe your ability to drive safely is impaired by a substance such as drugs or alcohol, or if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal threshold. 

In Arizona, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. If you’re a commercial driver, the limit is 0.04%. For people under the age of 21, Arizona has a “not a drop” law that makes it illegal to drive with any amount of alcohol in your system. 

A DUI may also be referred to as “Driving While Intoxicated” (DWI) or “Operating Under the Influence (OUI), depending on which state you’re in. 

DUI Testing

There are three types of tests performed during or after a DUI stop: the field sobriety test, the breathalyzer test, and the blood or urine test.

Field Sobriety Test 

In a field sobriety test, police ask the driver to perform three specific actions: walk-and-turn, stand on one leg, and follow an object with their gaze.  

Breathalyzer Test 

For a breathalyzer test, the driver blows into a machine that detects their BAC level. This is a common test as these machines are portable and easy to set up. 

Blood or Urine Test

A blood or urine sample may be used to check your BAC level. These tests are usually administered at the police station rather than at the site of the traffic stop.

Refusing DUI Testing

Normally, police officers cannot force you to take a blood or breath test during a DUI stop. However, refusing a test may have consequences for your case. 

In most states, when you apply for a driver’s license, you accept that you may be required to take a chemical or breath test if police stop you with probable cause for a DUI. This is known as “implied consent.” Refusing to take the test means breaking the “implied consent” agreement, which could result in an automatic license suspension or harsher penalties if you’re later convicted of a DUI.      

DUI Charges and Penalties 

There are various levels of charges available for a DUI, depending on, for example, your BAC and whether it’s your first offense. In many cases, a DUI is a misdemeanor; in very serious cases, however, it’s a felony.

The penalties for DUI depend on the charges. Here is a brief breakdown. 

First Offense

A first DUI is usually a misdemeanor charge, which is less serious than a felony charge. Penalties typically include fines, short jail sentences, ignition lock devices, and alcohol education programs.

In Arizona, for example, first-offense DUIs are punishable by up to 10 days in jail, a $250 fine, and a license suspension of up to a year. 

In most states, a first-offense DUI may be classed as a felony if it’s especially serious—e.g., the incident results in someone’s death, or you’re almost double the legal BAC limit. 

Subsequent Offenses 

Second and subsequent DUIs are punished more severely than first-offense DUIs.  

  • A second-offense DUI charge applies if this is your second offense within a certain period (in Arizona, it’s seven years). 
  • Subsequent DUI offenses result in longer jail time (at least 30 days in Arizona), harsher financial penalties, probation, and mandatory community service. 

Even though second and subsequent DUIs are usually misdemeanors, they can be elevated to felony charges depending on the circumstances. 

 Extreme and Aggravated DUI

Some states, including Arizona, have charges for extreme or aggravated DUIs. 

  • Extreme DUI: If you have a BAC of 0.15% or higher, the penalties usually include a minimum of 30 days in jail, ignition lock devices, fines of at least $2,500, and community service. You’ll also be considered a “high-risk” driver for insurance purposes. 
  • Aggravated DUI: An aggravated DUI is a felony offense and the most serious type of DUI charge. It applies when there are certain aggravating factors involved, such as driving drunk on a suspended license or with a minor in the vehicle. Penalties for an aggravated DUI conviction can include up to two years in prison, license revocation, probation, and monetary fines.

Whatever the charge against you, it’s crucial you seek legal representation right away to ensure you have a fair hearing and understand all the options available to you. 

Offenses Related to DUI Charges 

It’s not unusual for a person to face more than one type of criminal charge—especially when it comes to DUIs. Here are some common examples. 

  • Injury to person(s): On top of criminal charges for driving under the influence, drunk drivers may also face civil personal injury claims if they caused anyone to be hurt.
  • Manslaughter or murder: Such charges may be brought if another person dies due to a drunk driver’s actions.
  • Property damage: A DUI with a property damage charge means there’s damage to property.   
  • Traffic law violations: Common violations include reckless lane changes, speeding in a school zone, or running a red light. 
  • Youth offenses: These offenses include unlawful consumption of alcohol, misrepresentation of age to purchase alcohol, and possession of a false ID. 

DUI Charges and Underage Drinking 

Drivers under 21 can face DUI charges if they have any detectable alcohol in their system. The charges vary in severity from state to state – in Arizona, for example, a “baby DUI” is a class 1 misdemeanor. In most places, drivers under 21 with a BAC of 0.08% or higher are likely to face standard DUI charges—including more serious charges if someone is injured or killed due to the incident.

The typical penalties for underage DUIs include ignition locks, restricted driving privileges, and a license suspension. Drunk drivers under 21 can also face probation, alcohol testing, and even jail time, depending on the charges filed and whether it’s a first or subsequent offense. Under-21s should hire an attorney immediately if they’re facing a DUI/DWI or related charge for comprehensive legal advice.  

DUI Charges and License Suspension 

If you refuse to take a blood or breath test, or your BAC measures above a certain level, you will lose your license privileges immediately. The only way to avoid an automatic suspension is to request an administrative hearing with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In Arizona, this means contacting the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division.

If your application is successful, you’ll be able to keep your license privileges until the administrative hearing takes place. 

The outcome of the administrative hearing will not impact your criminal case, which is a separate matter. This means that even if you retain your right to drive following the hearing, you will still face criminal DUI charges (and a possible license suspension or revocation). 

Your attorney can help you file the relevant application, and they can represent you at the hearing. 

Consequences of a DUI Conviction 

  • Academic consequences: A DUI conviction can affect your ability to apply for college programs, leaving you unable to pursue the career you want. 
  • Family impact: In child custody cases, the other party may try to use a DUI conviction as evidence against your fitness to have physical custody of a child.      
  • Financial penalties: Paying any court-ordered fines or charges could affect your finances. Credit applications may also be affected by a DUI conviction.  
  • Jail time: Time spent behind bars deprives you of your liberty and could significantly affect your mental well-being. 
  • Loss of personal freedoms: Losing your driver’s license or having an ignition lock placed in your car could impact your ability to move around freely. 
  • Professional consequences: If you’re convicted of a DUI, you could lose your current job. You may also find it harder to secure employment in the future, as a DUI shows up during criminal background checks.   
  • Probation: Probation comes with certain rules you must follow. If you violate the terms of your probation, even accidentally, you could face more serious penalties, including a jail sentence.    
  • Rehabilitation programs: You may be required to attend a drug or alcohol rehab program as part of your sentence. 
  • Rising insurance costs: Insurance premiums can rise after a DUI conviction, making it more expensive to own a car. 

Given how much is at stake if you’re facing a DUI charge, you should consult an attorney immediately for legal advice. 

Defenses to a DUI Charge 

A DUI charge doesn’t automatically mean a conviction. There are various defenses available for DUI and related charges. While your specific defense will depend on the facts of your case, here are some of the most common ways you might challenge the allegations. 

  • Driver misidentified: It might be possible to show that you were not the driver at the time of the alleged DUI, e.g., if the passenger convinced you to trade places with them.  
  • Improper traffic stop: If the police pulled you over without probable cause, it might be possible to suppress any evidence gathered against you during the stop. For example, if you were driving safely, but the police pulled you over just because they saw you leaving a bar before entering your vehicle, this may constitute an improper stop. 
  • Inaccurate testing: Sometimes, it’s possible to show the testing devices used weren’t calibrated accurately or the police officers didn’t perform a field sobriety test properly. If an officer arrests you for a DUI because you lost your balance during a field sobriety test, for example, you might challenge their findings as there could be other explanations for lack of coordination or physical impairment.
  • Procedural errors: Various procedural errors might impact the validity of a field sobriety test or breathalyzer result, such as whether the officer had the right training to use the breathalyzer machine correctly, or whether the machine was maintained in good working order.   
  • Rising BAC: Your BAC can rise over time. It is sometimes possible to show that a defendant whose BAC was over the limit when tested was actually under the limit while they were driving.

Other Defenses 

If the evidence supports a drunk driving charge, a defendant may be able to avoid penalties or even conviction if they can show that they ingested alcohol without their knowledge, or that they only drove drunk because they were escaping a serious threat to their life. 

A defendant may also be able to argue that they genuinely believed they could drive at the time of the alleged DUI. A person who takes prescription medication that can impair their driving ability but believes any negative effects on their judgment were worn off might qualify for this defense, for instance.

Every DUI charge is different. An experienced DUI defense attorney can determine the right defense for your case.

Handling a DUI Stop 

It’s important to remain calm if you’re pulled over by the police, even if you know that you’re innocent. Otherwise, you could face additional charges for obstructing a police officer or for resisting arrest.  

If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent. This right exists to protect you from self-incrimination or from accidentally saying something which could later be turned against you. The moment you’re arrested, inform the officer that you won’t answer questions without speaking to an attorney first. Make sure you retain a criminal defense lawyer at the earliest opportunity.

Contact an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney

Colin Bell  is a DUI and Criminal Defense  attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. He is Of-Counsel with Stewart Law Group with offices throughout Arizona. The firm has helped many clients navigate the legal complexities of DUI and criminal defense.  



Posted By

Colin Bell

Contact Lawyer
View Phone Number
View Profile


View On Larger Map