Felony DUI Laws, and Penalties in Arizona

  
July 1, 2013
By James E. Novak, P.L.L.C. on July 1, 2013 2:57 PM |

All DUI convictions carry harsh penalties. But, by far aggravated DUI expose a person to the harshest sentencing.

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In 2012, a total of 7,696 Extreme DUI arrests were made representing 29% of the total 26,334 DUI arrests; and aggravated DUI (felony) arrests 3124 representing 12% of all DUI arrests last year.

A majority of DUI arrests in Arizona are misdemeanors. Even Extreme DUI charges are brought as misdemeanors. However, a misdemeanor will be elevated to an Aggravated DUI (felony) when certain factors are present surrounding the DUI charge, as defined under A.R.S. 28-1383.

For example, a driver was recently arrested for DUI for driving with a suspended license while approximately four times over the legal limit, Maricopa County. Under these circumstances a motorist is exposed charges of aggravated DUI (felony DUI). Prosecutors bring charges of aggravated or felony DUI when not only is a driver impaired by alcohol or illegal substances, but he or she (1) has a suspended, cancelled, revoked or restricted license or (2) has two DUI convictions within seven years of the current DUI or (3) has been ordered to have an ignition interlock device on a car.

It is illegal to drive with .08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). However, in Arizona, a driver does not need to have blood alcohol levels this high to be charged. It is illegal to drive even when you are only slightly impaired by alcohol or illegal substances.

A driver may also be charged with more serious offenses when the blood alcohol levels exceed the legal limit. If a driver's blood alcohol level is .15% or more you can be charged with extreme DWI. In addition to Extreme DUI (.15%) Arizona also has Super Extreme DUI laws. A person can be charged with super extreme DWI, if their BAC is .20 % or higher. Assuming the additional circumstances described above are met, aggravated DUI can be charged for regular DUIs, as well as for extreme DWI or super extreme DWI.

Generally, the higher the BAC for which a person is convicted, the more harsh the penalties. This includes longer incarceration terms. But by far the harshest penalties go to people who are convicted of an aggravated DUI. An aggravated DUI is a Class 4 felony. However, it can also be charged as a Class 6 felony if you are impaired and driving with a child under the age of 15 in the car. Felony DUI may also be charged if someone is severely injured or killed while the driver was under the influence.

The penalties for an aggravated DUI in Arizona can be harsh. There is a mandatory minimum of 4 months in prison and up to 3.75 years in prison. "Mandatory minimum" means that the judge is required to sentence you to at least that amount (4 months) in prison regardless of how good one's character or lack of prior record.

For example, if you have had two prior DUIs and you drink a glass of wine at happy hour, and as a result you weave in and out of traffic and get pulled over by the police, you could face aggravated DUI charges. If you are so charged, the judge is required to sentence you to at least four months in prison.

On top of the mandatory minimum prison time, you may face fines and costs that together exceed $4600. A person's driving privileges may be revoked for a year and you may be placed on probation. An aggravated DUI will be on a person's record, which means a person's sentence could be enhanced in the future if you are ever again convicted of a felony.

Moreover, on future job applications, you will have to answer that you have been convicted of a felony, thereby limiting the kinds of work that will be available to you. There is a significant social stigma attached to felony convictions. If a person's license has been revoked, it can be difficult to get to work, thereby further impacting a person's employment prospects.

If you are charged with a Class 6 felony DUI, there are no mandatory minimums. However, you can be sentenced to prison for up to two years. There is a mandatory license revocation.


Because of the harsh penalties involved with DUIs in Chandler, and surrounding Phoenix-metro cities in Arizona, whether ordinary, extreme, super or aggravated, it is important to contact a DUI attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to weaken the prosecution's case by revealing constitutional rights violations, improper police procedure, or other applicable defenses in an attempt to reduce the charges, and mitigate the penalties. Occasionally, the charges can be dismissed depending on the circumstances. Contact The Law Office of James Novak at 480-413-1499 for a free consultation.


Additional Resources:

Drug DUI and Super Extreme DUI laws

Arizona 2012 Statewide DUI Enforcement Statistics

Alcohol/Substance Abuse Counseling and Treatment Providers

Arizona Department of Health Services - Behavior Health Resource Links

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