DUI Attorney Nick Alcock answers common questions about DUI cases in Arizona. Please keep in mind that every DUI case is different, and if you have any questions you can call our DUI lawyers for a free consultation. DUI laws in Arizona are changed as of 12/31/11.
Regular DUI: Impaired to the slightest degree or .08 to .15 Blood Alcohol Concentration
Extreme DUI: .15 to .20 Blood Alcohol Concentration
Super Extreme DUI: .20 and higher Blood Alcohol Concentration
Are my charges misdemeanors or felonies?
Those charged with a DUI need to know whether their charge is a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI, and here is a simple test:
If you answered "No" to all of the questions above, you can only be charged with a misdemeanor DUI. If, on the other hand, you answered "Yes" to any of the questions above, you could be charged with a felony DUI.
How much jail can I get for my DUI?
Generally speaking here is the jail time people typically get for the various DUI offenses. Keep in mind that these sentences are the minimums and judges can impose substantially more time if the defendant fails to complete drug and alcohol classes. Second Offense DUIs are the second act of DUI within 84 months (7 years).
Offenses Before 12/31/11
Felony Aggravated DUI, Class 4 Felony:
Offenses After 12/31/11
Felony Aggravated DUI, Class 4 Felony:
What are the fines for DUI cases?
Keep in mind that these fines are the minimums. They do not include penalties for other civil traffic violations which may be on your ticket. Further, courts may impose fines for the cost of incarceration. Call our DUI attorneys if you have any questions about fines and/or jail costs.
What will happen to my driver's license?
It is difficult to say exactly without knowing the number of points on your record. Assuming a clean driving record, most people face a 90 day suspension for DUI. People are prohibited from driving for 30 days. Then you can obtain a to/from work/school permit for the remaining 60 days. Remember to pay your reinstatement fee after the suspension period is up to get your license back.
After 12/31/11, most other DUI license suspensions for second offense and aggravated DUI offenses are for a period of one year. Furthermore, restricted interlock permits are available for those who install an interlock after 45 or 90 days, depending on the type of DUI. (Please keep in mind that there is not 100% clarity on how the Arizona MVD will handle complex DUI suspensions and revocations) Feel free to call our firm if you have any questions.
What are Alcohol Treatment Programs (SASS)?
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, you will probably be required to complete a court ordered substance abuse screening program. At the outset you will be tested and based on your performance you will be assessed a number of hours of alcohol counseling, ranging from 16 to more than 60. Among other things, the testing looks at your drinking history, your attempts to obtain counseling in the past, and other specific factors about your case. Many times, the court will impose a higher jail sentence with the condition that successful completion of SASS will reduce your time of incarceration. You would normally be given many months to finish these classes.
What is the Interlock Device?
The interlock device is now generally required for every DUI conviction. It used to be reserved only for multiple offense convictions or extreme DUI offenses. The short story is that it is an enormous pain because you must pay for it to be installed, have it serviced usually every month, and blow into it regularly so that your vehicle can start or continue to operate. There is no good way to spin this. In order for you to keep your license you have to PROVE that this device has been installed and activated for the required period of time. It used to be that one year would be enough but now the MVD is requiring longer periods for high alcohol level cases. See the section for DUI offenses to learn the length of time required for each given charge.Back To Top
What should I do if I get pulled over by the police?
Immediately retrieve your license and registration so you have it ready when the officer approaches the window. Most importantly, be polite to the officer. If the officer asks you to step outside of the vehicle, step outside of the vehicle. If you get the impression that the officer is investigating you for DUI, immediately ask to speak with your attorney. Although this experience may be frightening, you do not have to consent to the eye test or any other field sobriety tests (portable breath test, one-leg stand, walking a straight line, counting backwards, etc...). When you chose not to participate in these tests, politely inform the officer that you wish to speak with your attorney and will not perform any field sobriety tests. Even if the officer continues to question you, insist that you want to speak with your attorney.
Do I have to answer the officer's questions?
Other than providing a driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance, the answer is no. You do not have to respond to potentially incriminating questions. Therefore, if an officer asks you whether you have consumed alcohol or any other substance, you do not have to answer the officer's questions. Make sure to be polite in your refusal.
Do I have to take a portable breath test?
The answer to this question is no. A portable breath test is considered a field sobriety test. Therefore, a portable breath test is considered the same as the eye test, the walk-and-turn test, and one-leg stand test, and any results will be used against you. It is never recommended to submit to any of the field sobriety tests as they will only be used against you and there is no penalty for not submitting to the tests.
What will happen at the police station?
If you are arrested, you will most likely be taken to a police station or a mobile police station (DUI van). It is common for the officers to ask you biographical information as well as personal information about that evening. At the station, the police officer should give you a reasonable opportunity to speak with an attorney. This call should be private and confidential. A phone book should also be provided to you. If the police had plenty of time to allow you to make the call, and they didn't, it is possible to suppress the alcohol result. However, you can not unreasonably delay the process by talking for hours and hours, hoping that the level of alcohol in your system goes down. Generally speaking, the police will give you about 10 minutes to speak with an attorney.
Do I have to give a breath, blood, or urine sample?
Simply put, Arizona law requires that every driver submit to a chemical test if the officer suspects that individual of being impaired while operating a motor vehicle. A failure to take a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test will result in your license being suspended for twelve months. Additionally, your failure to take the mandatory test can be used against you at trial.
Even if you do not complete the field sobriety tests and ask for a lawyer, a police officer does not need to have much evidence to conduct a lawful arrest for DUI. Plenty of judges will allow an arrest to stand if the officer witnessed erratic driving and the driver smelled of alcohol. At the station, or DUI van, the officer will ask you if you want to voluntarily submit to a blood, breath, or urine test. If you do not submit to the test, the officer has the right to inform the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). MVD can then suspend your privilege to drive for one year, without exception. Additionally, the officer can then call a judge and obtain a warrant allowing that officer to draw your blood (and use necessary force if the driver resists). The judge will almost certainly sign a warrant which will allow the officer to take blood from you by force. So a refusal could result in losing your license for one year and still having your blood drawn.
Is it ever wise not to submit to a blood, breath or urine test?
You typically should not submit to chemical testing if you know that you are probably over the legal limit AND:
Remember, the three exceptions do not guarantee that the police officer will not get a warrant and draw your blood. Unlike refusing to answer any questions, the fact that you refused to submit to testing can possibly be used against you in trial. Also, some lawyers disagree with this strategy. There is no absolute right or wrong.
What if I did not know that there was a problem with my license?
People who are charged with felony aggravated DUI for driving impaired with a suspended license face prison time and a permanent life-long criminal record. However, many people charged with this crime did not realize that their license was suspended. Unfortunately the law requires only that the MVD mail notice of suspension to the last known address. If the Motor Vehicle Department can provide evidence that notice of your suspension, cancellation, or revocation was mailed to your last known address, most courts will agree that this is sufficient to show that you did know, or should have known, the status of your license. However, our law firm has won aggravated DUI cases by showing that the MVD records are incomplete or inaccurate.Back To Top
Why do I have a Public Defender?
Those who can not afford representation are typically assigned a public defender or contract counsel. Many of these attorneys are highly qualified and skilled advocates. However, just because you have been assigned a Public Defender does not mean that you will not have to pay for his/her services. The Court will make a determination very early in the process as to what an accused can afford for legal representation.
If I have a Public Defender, can I hire a private criminal defense attorney?
Yes. Any individual charged with a criminal offense has the right to hire a private criminal defense attorney. Alcock and Associates, P.C. has the highest respect for fellow members of the criminal defense bar, and the mere fact that these lawyers are paid by the government does not mean that they are not quality attorneys. However, the firm recommends that a person should follow the following suggestions if he/she has a Public Defender and is considering a private criminal defense attorney:
First, you should call your Public Defender and arrange for a meeting. If they do not respond or do not want to meet with you, this is a warning sign. It is very hard for attorneys to represent clients that they do not know. We have to learn the facts from our client's perspective and help our clients make important decisions regarding the disposition of their case.
Second, once you meet with your Public Defender, ask them what they are planning to do. If your attorney immediately starts talking about a plea agreement, this is a pretty good indication that you are not receiving the highest level of representation.
Finally, size up your Public Defender and ask yourself if this person could be persuasive. Attorneys need to be salespeople; they are selling you and your case to the prosecutor, judge, and jury. If your public defender can't persuade you that you are in good hands, can he or she persuade a group of jurors that you are innocent?
What if I don't know my next court date?
Often, people who are charged with Aggravated DUI do not have to appear in Superior Court until months after their original traffic stop. Frequently, people believe that their case has miraculously disappeared only to later learn that the County had issued a summons for their appearance or arrest warrant months after the arrest. If you were arrested for DUI, and you do not have a court date, the best thing to do is to go to the following website: www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov. There, you can enter your name in the case information section to find out if your charges are pending. If you can't find your name, that doesn't mean that you are in the clear. This site is not perfect, and you may still need to contact an attorney to do a more comprehensive records check.
What should I expect at court?
Since every case is unique, one of our DUI attorneys can carefully go over all of the details of your case to help you understand what happened and what is going to happen. However, a typical misdemeanor DUI timeline includes the following:
Traffic stop: DUI investigation, arrest, blood alcohol test administration.
First court date for an arraignment: This is the date found on your citation or ticket. If you hire a DUI defense lawyer, you may not need to attend this hearing. By pleading "not guilty," you preserve the right to a jury trial, the right to attack any constitutional violations during the investigation or arrest, the right to confront the arresting officer, and the right to negotiate a plea. If you plead "guilty," you waive those rights.
Second court date for a pretrial conference: This is an opportunity to get documents from the prosecutor, file pretrial motions, negotiate for a plea agreement, and potentially enter a plea. If a person does not enter a guilty plea, and your case is not dismissed by the prosecutor, the court will eventually set your matter for trial.
Trial management conference: Shortly before the DUI trial, the judge will schedule a final management conference to discuss all pretrial motions to ensure that the parties are ready to proceed to trial. This trial management conference has multiple names in different courts, but the hearing is the same. The judge wants to know if the trial really will happen.
Trial: A DUI trial typically lasts one or two days. As of 12/31/11, first offense DUI cases may not be eligible for jury trials. As such, your case may be heard by the judge. For more serious offenses, you will still have a right to be tried by a jury of your peers.
Sentencing: If a person enters a plea agreement or is convicted at trial. After trial, it is possible to delay sentencing 30 days or so. For felony DUIs however, defendants are typically taken into jail after being found guilty. For misdemeanor DUIs, however, it is possible to delay jail. People convicted of misdemeanor DUI are typically not arrested and carted off to jail from court. Instead, judges will give defendants an opportunity to self-surrender at jail. Of course if you don't show up to jail a warrant can issue for your arrest and you can be taken immediately to jail.
How much should you pay for a DUI attorney?
Prices will always vary depending on the nature of the case and the complexity of the issues. However, nobody accused of a misdemeanor DUI should be paying $7,000, $8,000, or even $10,000 for legal representation. Alcock and Associates, P.C. believes that excellent misdemeanor DUI representation can be obtained for an amount between $2,000 and $4,000 depending on the client's case and/or the need for a payment plan.
Most importantly, ask what the entire cost for representation is. Many attorneys will say that a misdemeanor DUI will cost $2,000, but this will only be the start-up fee. Shortly after your initial payment, bills will come for the "other" expenses and trial fees that turn a $2,000 initial fee into a $7,000 overall cost for representation. Alcock and Associates, P.C. will offer clients a flat fee so they know exactly what the final cost is. In order to be respected as a litigator, you have to litigate. Charging high trial fees, often results in clients taking a plea agreement simply because they can not afford to go to trial. Alcock and Associates, P.C. believes that a person's decision to go to trial should not be persuaded on how much money they will have to pay.
What if I know that I am guilty?
Here is the good news. If you have been charged with this type of offense, the County Attorney's office has the discretion to negotiate with defense attorneys to reduce a defendant's sentence through a plea agreement. However, be very cautious before you accept any plea agreement on your own. An aggressive attorney is important as he/she will look for weaknesses in the prosecutor's case and/or violations of your constitutionally protected rights.Back To Top
What if I was in an accident?
A DUI case involving a traffic accident is by its very nature more serious. However, there are a number of factors that you have to look at to determine if the accident will significantly affect possible jail time. Here are the most common scenarios and how the prosecution typically deals with them.
What is the difference between City Court, Justice Courts and Superior Court?
Each type of court can only hear certain matters. The Court's ability to hear a certain case is called jurisdiction. Generally, City Court's have jurisdiction over most civil, traffic, and criminal misdemeanor offenses. Therefore, if you are arrested in Phoenix by a Phoenix police officer for a misdemeanor DUI, you will have to appear in Phoenix City (Municipal) Court. Regardless where a criminal offense occurs, felonies will only be heard in Superior Courts.
What if I have been convicted of DUI in another state?
A DUI prior from another state is treated the same as a DUI conviction in Arizona. The question will be whether or not the prosecutor will know about the DUI and whether they will be able to prove this DUI conviction. However, it is not the job of a defense attorney to help a prosecutor convict their client. t. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department is a member of the Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS). This system allows the MVD to find out if there are any active suspensions in other States. It has been our experience that many prosecutors do not obtain this information prior to making a plea agreement. However, many jurisdictions require you to make a statement to the court that you do not have any other convictions within the past five years. This would include any out of State convictions.
What if I had Drugs in my system?
A DUI drug offense is usually treated identically to a DUI alcohol offense, with the exception that a drug offense can lead to a longer license suspension or possible revocation. DUI drug cases can be charged if there is probable cause to believe that the driver was impaired by any drug, even over the counter medication such as decongestants and cold medicine. Please call our office for more information about DUI drug cases.
What do I need to know about the Court I have to go to?
Whether you are in City Court, Justice Court, or Superior Court, there are two rules that must always be followed: 1) Be on time; and 2) Be appropriately dressed. Your attorney will tell you when and where you need to be. Remember that this is not a suggestion as the Judge or prosecutor will most likely be waiting for you exactly when you were ordered to appear. Additionally, understand that you are being judged the second you walk into a Court. Therefore, you want to demonstrate respect to the Court by dressing appropriately and conservatively, speaking politely, and acting respectfully.
While certain courts, judges, and/or prosecutors may have informal reputations, these should be disregarded and every case should be treated with the necessary care and precaution.
Hiring an attorney: Questions to ask.
Obviously, there are other questions that should be answered. Really the signs to look for are the general interest level that the attorney has.
What happens if I am pulled over, (and not impaired) when my license is suspended for DUI?
Recently there was a change in the law in Arizona regarding license suspensions. Where jail was mandatory before, currently license suspension cases are resolved with a simple fine. Jail time is technically possible.
How do I get my license back after the suspension period?
So what happens after the 90 day suspension period? Your license does not automatically reinstate itself. Let me repeat that. After the 90 days you are not free and clear. You have to go back to the MVD and pay a reinstatement fee. I know that I have included this information elsewhere in the site. Bottom line is that people just keep making the same mistake over and over again and it is beginning to irritate me. You have to go back, pay the fee and double check that you don't have any other court action against your license. When you actually get your license from the MVD, believe it or not, it is still not over. I have had clients come to me with letters from the MVD stating that they issued the license in error and that it is not valid. I don't have much good to say about the way that Arizona issues driver's licenses except I do like the website www.servicearizona.com. That is a very good resource to check the status of your license or privilege to drive. My advice, keep checking and never assume that that one ticket you didn't pay back in 1994 just, "went away."
If you get pulled over after the suspension period has ended but you didn't pay your reinstatement fee you can still be charged with a serious crime and technically you can still go to jail. Normally the prosecutor will take pity on you and give you a fine. The problem is that your license can be suspended all over again. Many of my clients have been caught in a ridiculous downward spiral of repeat suspensions. Everybody knows that Arizona has an inadequate public transportation system. I completely disagree with all the justifications for suspending a license that exist in Arizona: buying alcohol for a minor and graffiti violations to name a few.
While driving on a suspended license has become a less serious offense in Arizona it is still very important to resolve any outstanding suspensions because impaired driving on a suspended license is a very serious felony offense.