| Read Time: 5 minutes | DUI

Many people who are facing DUI charges are experiencing the criminal justice system for the first time. For people inexperienced with criminal law, the procedures and terminology for a criminal case can be confusing.

And it is important to understand the concept of a DUI charge versus a DUI conviction. Both a charge and a conviction can have certain consequences that you will need to know how to handle, and this article will discuss some of those consequences and what can be done to protect you. 

What is the Difference Between a DUI Charge and a Conviction?

charged or arrested with dui but not convicted

If an officer pulls you over for suspicion of DUI and now you have a court date with a day and time to appear before a judge, then you have been charged (but not convicted) of a DUI. When you are charged, you still get to have your day in court to fight the DUI charges.

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You are only punished for a DUI in the criminal courts if you get convicted of a DUI, either after or a jury trial or through a plea of guilty. But you may face license and employment consequences immediately, even without a conviction.

Note: If you have been falsely charged with a DUI, most of the consequences from the charge itself can be combatted by an experienced DUI lawyer.

The Effect of a DUI Charge by Itself

When you are charged with a DUI, even without being convicted, you will likely have to deal with certain consequences. First and foremost, all people who are arrested for a DUI are likely to face license consequences. You may also face a disciplinary investigation as part of your job or school. If you are a licensed professional in Arizona, the Board that oversees your profession may also conduct their own investigation into the charges. 

License Consequences for a DUI Charge

Under Arizona’s “Admin Per Se” law, a DUI arrest will result in automatic license consequences unless you fight the charges. According to this law, 15 days after a DUI arrest, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) will automatically suspend your driver’s license for a period of time (anywhere from 90 days to a year, depending on various factors). 

The good news is that by requesting an administrative hearing, your defense attorney can put a stop to the automatic license suspension. This is done by filing a motion with ADOT for an administrative hearing. An administrative hearing can challenge the officer’s basis for the license suspension and protect your license from suspension. 

But if you fight for your license, a motion for a hearing needs to be filed as soon as possible. Otherwise the license suspension will occur automatically just because of the DUI charge itself, even without a criminal conviction. 

Some Professional Reporting Requirements for a DUI Charge

Licensing boards for certain professions may also impose automatic reporting requirements whenever a person is arrested for a DUI. If you belong to a profession where you need to maintain a professional license, then you should speak with a DUI lawyer to see if you may be required to report your charges with your professional board. 

For example, the Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots to inform the FAA in writing 60 days after an administrative suspension of their driving privileges. As discussed above, an admin per se suspension of a person’s driving privileges can occur even without a criminal conviction for a DUI. 

University Disciplinary Boards

If you are a college student, a DUI arrest can also lead to an investigation by your university. For example, DUIs are considered a violation of ASU’s Student Code of Conduct. It is not always the case that a police officer will report a DUI arrest to your university. But Tempe police officers may report criminal conduct they suspect ASU students to have committed to the school. 

Disciplinary action by the university can range from a warning to suspension or expulsion. The more extreme punishments are unlikely for a first-time offender, but a disciplinary hearing is something that a student should take incredibly seriously. And dealing with these types of hearings can be difficult. On the one hand, the hearings usually take place prior to a resolution of your criminal case, so it may be in your interest to exercise your 5th Amendment right to remain silent. But on the other hand, not defending yourself before a disciplinary board will often have the consequence of the board only hearing the officer’s side of the story, which can result in the board deciding to take disciplinary action. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for how to handle a situation where a DUI charge leads to a disciplinary hearing. A defense attorney experienced with Tempe’s court process and ASU’s disciplinary procedures can help you through this process. 

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The Effect of a DUI Conviction

A DUI conviction has far greater consequences than a mere DUI arrest in the criminal system. An arrest merely shows that a police officer believed he had a probable cause (i.e., the officer thought it was “more likely than not” that you committed a crime). The legal standard for a conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Because the US justice system places a high burden on the state to convict a person of a DUI, an arrest does not automatically mean you are guilty or lead to a conviction. 

If you are convicted, however, any DUI charge in Arizona comes with a bevy of fines as well as mandatory minimum jail time. You may have to report the conviction to a licensing board if you are a professional. It will also lead to even further consequences for your Arizona driver’s license. And finally, it will appear permanently as a conviction on your criminal record 

Only a Conviction Results in Fines and Jail Time

The only way the state can put you in jail for a DUI is if they secure a conviction. A DUI conviction can be put on your record as the result of either a guilty verdict at a criminal trial or through a plea of guilty to the court. 

Depending on the type of DUI (which is determined by the BAC in your system at the time of driving) and whether this is your first or second DUI offense, the amount of jail time you can be facing can be as little as 1 day to as much as 6 months in jail. 

Minimum fines and fees can range from $1250 to $3750. 

If you have been charged with a higher-level DUI, this does not mean that you will be convicted of the highest crime charged. There are several defenses to DUI which an attorney can use to fight for an acquittal at trial or to use to negotiate lower charges (or even a complete dismissal) with a prosecutor. 

Additional License Consequences of a DUI Conviction

A DUI conviction will have additional consequences with your Arizona driver’s license. DUI convictions result in 8 points on your driver’s license, which will trigger a requirement for you to take traffic survival school (or which would result in a suspension of your license if you have accumulated additional points previously). 

A DUI conviction for alcohol (as opposed to a drug-related DUI), will also lead to MVD requiring you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your car for at least 1 year. In order to start your car, you will be required to blow into the IID. If the device detects alcohol on your breath, then your car won’t start. Even if you get your license back, you won’t legally be able to drive any car that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device. 

Note: These license consequences are in addition to the admin per se license suspension that is discussed above. 

More Expansive Report Requirements to Professional Boards

While some licensing organizations require you report a DUI charge, a much larger number require you to report an actual conviction. This can include real estate agents, who do not have a duty to report a DUI charge, but must report a DUI conviction. 

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Stewart Salwin

Stewart Salwin is the founder and lead attorney at Salwin Law Group, a criminal defense law firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona, just outside of the greater Phoenix area. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, where he was taught criminal law by world-renowned defense attorneys.

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