First Offense DUIs in Arizona

Updated August 12, 2021

Arizona punishes first-time DUI offenses in Arizona very harshly. DUI is a class 1 misdemeanor, but unlike other crimes in this category, a DUI comes with mandatory minimum punishments. The penalties for a DUI conviction include 10 days in jail, over $2750 in fines and assessments, alcohol and drug screening and counseling, a 90-day license suspension, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for 12 months. The total costs for all these penalties can amount to over $7000.

The punishment for a first-time DUI increases further if the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.15% or 0.20%. 

In this article, we discuss:

What is a first-time DUI offense?

What are the penalties for a first-time DUI in Arizona?

What happens to your license when you get a DUI?

What are common defenses to a DUI?

Can you get a DUI conviction set aside?

What is a first-time DUI offense?

Under Arizona’s criminal law, driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs occurs in the following circumstances:

  • Driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or greater; or
  • Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol to the slightest degree, regardless of the driver’s BAC.

This is what criminal defense attorneys call a Regular DUI. It refers to a DUI charge where the driver’s BAC is lower than a 0.15%. This is the lowest-level of misdemeanor DUI charge in Arizona.

If the driver’s BAC is higher than a 0.15%, then they may face more severe DUI charges.

Arizona criminal law divides misdemeanor DUI charges into 3 different categories depending on the driver’s BAC:

1)  Regular DUI (when the driver is impaired to the slightest degree or has a BAC between 0.08% and 0.149%);

2) Extreme DUI (BAC between 0.15% and 0.19%)

3) Super Extreme DUI (BAC higher than 0.20%)

The more serious the DUI charge, the greater the potential punishment.

What are the penalties for a first-time DUI in Arizona?

Unless special aggravating factors exist, most first-time DUIs will be charged as class 1 misdemeanors in Arizona. The maximum penalty for any class 1 misdemeanor is up to 6 months of jail and $2500 in fines. However, DUI is unique because in addition to a maximum punishment, DUI also has mandatory minimum punishments.

All misdemeanor DUI convictions carry the follow penalties:

  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for 1 year (this requirement may be waived if the DUI only involves drugs and not alcohol);
  • A 90-day driver’s license suspension (this can increase to a 1-year license revocation if the driver refuses the breath or blood test); and
  • Alcohol screening and counseling.

In addition to these penalties, the jail time and fines the defendant faces will depend on the defendant’s BAC level:

BACMinimum Jail TimeMinimum Fines
Regular DUI (BAC below 0.15%)10 days’ jail (reduced to one day with alcohol screening)$1250
Extreme DUI (BAC between 0.15% and 0.20%)30 days’ jail (reduced to 9 days with installation of ignition interlock device)$2500
Super Extreme DUI (BAC over 0.20%)45 days’ jail (reduced to 14 with installation of ignition interlock device)$2750

Keep in mind that the penalties a DUI defendant faces will increase if this is not their first DUI. A prior DUI conviction that is less than 7 years old can be counted against a driver and they may be charged with a second-time DUI offense or an aggravated DUI (if this is the driver’s third DUI offense in 7 years), which each have significantly harsher penalties.

A person may also be charged with an aggravated DUI even if this is their first DUI offense if certain aggravating factors are present such as: if the defendant was driving on a suspended license or had a child under the age of 15 in the car.

What happens to your license when you get a DUI?

If you are arrested for a DUI in Arizona, you are facing a minimum of a 90-day license suspension. This suspension will usually go into effect automatically within 15 days of your DUI arrest. This is what is known as an Admin Per Se suspension of your license. When you are arrested for DUI, the officers will submit what is known as an “Admin Per Se” form to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), which describes the reasons the arresting officer believes that he has probable cause to believe that a driver was driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

The automatic license suspension can be challenged if a hearing is requested on your behalf. If ADOT receives a request for a hearing in time, then the license suspension will be “stayed” (i.e., put on hold) until the hearing. This hearing will usually occur within 2 to 3 months from the date the license suspension is stayed.

If the driver refused to provide a breath or blood test during the DUI arrest, this will result in a 1-year license revocation instead of a 90-day license suspension. For this reason, attorneys will usually advise a driver who is arrested for a DUI to submit to a breath or blood test. If the driver refuses to do so, the officers can request an emergency warrant from a judge to obtain the driver’s blood sample. The driver will then be restrained if necessary to allow the officers to draw the driver’s blood sample, and the driver will suffer a 1-year license revocation.  The 1-year license revocation can also be stayed if a hearing is requested from ADOT in time. 

An ADOT hearing is similar to a trial because both sides can offer evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The rules of evidence are not as strict, however, because the ADOT hearing is an administrative hearing, not a criminal trial. For this reason, less evidence is also needed to uphold the license suspension than would be required in a criminal trial.

What are common defenses to a DUI?

There are many common defense strategies that a DUI attorney can use in an effort to get DUI charges reduced or dismissed. Ten possible DUI defenses are:

  1. Violation of the right to counsel
  2. Inaccurate breath test readings
  3. Illegal traffic stop
  4. No probable cause for the DUI arrest
  5. No evidence of driving or actual physical control
  6. Violation of Miranda warnings
  7. Violation of the implied consent law
  8. Violation of right to an independent chemical test
  9. Improper administration of the field sobriety tests
  10. Police officer did not conduct a proper 15-minute observation period

These strategies are discussed at length here. The important thing to keep in mind is that no case is hopeless. Even if the state’s case might seem solid; a thorough investigation of the evidence may turn up weaknesses or constitutional violation that can lead to a dismissal.

Can you get a DUI conviction set aside?

Yes, even if you are found guilty of a DUI, defendants can ask the court to set aside their conviction once the case has been resolved. A set aside does not in itself wipe a case from the record entirely, but it does show on the record that a court has set the conviction aside. This will appear on background checks and provides notice to employers or others that might be interested that a defendant has successfully completed all the requirements of the sentence.

Contact our experienced DUI attorney if you are facing DUI charges in Arizona. We can discuss your case and help you determine the best options for you in facing these charges.