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. DUI is a crime that cuts across all gender, racial, and economic borders. It is an offense that a substantial per-centage of otherwise law-abiding citi-zens commit on a regular basis, and that many people routinely get away with.
Not everyone gets away with it, however. Last year, there were 39,991 people arrested for DUI in Arizona.
What Is The DUI Law?
To understand what DUI is, it is helpful to point out what it is not. DUI is not “drunk driving.” You do not have to be “drunk” to get a DUI in Arizona. Following is a brief summary of DUI law in Arizona. Its purpose is to help
So, what is DUI? To be convicted of DUI in Arizona, you simply must be in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while you are “impaired to the lightest degree” by alcohol or drugs. If you think this sounds like a pretty low standard, you’re right. Being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle simply means
that you have the ability to put your car into the flow of traffic. It does not require that the car be in motion, that the engine is on, or that the keys even be in the ignition. And, depending on your size, activity level, gender, and drinking habits, you can be “impaired to the slightest degree” after just a single drink. Long story short: If you get behind the wheel when you have alcohol in your system that is impairing you in any way, you can be arrested for DUI in Arizona.
What Are The Penalties For DUI?
The maximum punishment for a first-offense DUI in Arizona is 6 months in jail and more than $ 15,000 in
fines and jail costs. Contrary to the “Expect the Max” commercials that pervade late night television, though, first-time DUI offenders are rarely sentenced to the maximum penalties in this state.3 Still, under Arizona’s new DUI sentencing laws, the mandatory minimum pen?alties that must be assessed to anyone convicted of a DUI are extremely harsh. Currently, every DUI carries with it mandatory jail time, substantial fines, and installation of an Ignition Interlock device on your car for at least a year.
The minimum penalties in a particular DUI case depend on the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
How Do I Calculate My BAC?
Unfortunately, there is no method of analyzing BAC that is 100% accurate. Even blood-testing for alcohol content has its critics, and there are experts who will testify in court about margins of error associated with this type of testing.
5 The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office charges a “jail assessment” for
each day an individual spends in jail. The most recent information sug?gests that this amount is currently slightly more than $ 70 a day.
The charts provide rough estimates of BAC and are provided for illustrative purposes only. They cannot be relied on as a clear indicator of BAC because they do not consider many factors that affect alcohol absorption and burn-off rates (metabolic rates, health issues, medica?tions taken, drinking habits, amount of food eaten and how recently, etc.). They are simply offered to provide some idea of how quickly your BAC increases when you are drinking.
What Happens In A DUI Investigation?
While every DUI investigation is unique, most investi-gations begin with a police officer observing something about a vehicle that leads him to believe that its owner may be impaired by alcohol. Sometimes this is a traffic violation, but it does not have to be. Very often, the
officer will tail the person for some distance and make additional observations about the driving habits before activating his lights (and, if necessary, sirens) to signal for the driver to stop.
Once the vehicles are parked on the side of the road, the officer will usually approach the driver with a flashlight on, shine the flashlight in the driver’s face, and ask the driver for his license, registration, and insurance infor-mation. While the driver is locating the documents, the
officer will frequently ask the driver additional questions and try to “test” the driver for “divided attention” (i.e., the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time).
During this same time, the officer will be looking for additional signs and symptoms of alcohol impairment:
Bloodshot watery eyes, odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, the driver’s physical appearance and condition of his clothes, whether the driver has difficulty locating or handling the identifying documents, etc. After asking the driver a series of questions (generally about where he
is coming from, where he is going to and whether he has been drinking), the officer will ask the driver to step outside of the vehicle. At this point, the officer is observ?ing how the driver exits the vehicle, whether he needs to touch the car to steady himself, and whether he is
swaying at all. The officer will also frequently administer “Field Sobriety Tests,” or FSTs.
. HGN: The first FST administered is usually an eye test, called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, in which the officer will shine a light in the driver’s eye while moving a pen from side to side and asking the driver to follow the pen. The officer is looking for “nystagmus,” which is an involuntary jerking of the eye that prevents an individual from following the pen smoothly with his eye, and that may be caused by alcohol impairment.
. Walk and Turn: Another FST commonly administered is the “walk and turn” test. In this test, the officer will ask the driver to take 9 heel-to-toe steps, turn around, and take 9 steps back. The driver is told to keep his hands at his sides and look at his feet at all times. The officer is looking to see if the driver will start the test before the instructions are finished, lift his hands from his side to steady himself, pause while walking to steady himself, fail to touch heel-to-toe, or fail to walk in a straight line.
. One Leg Stand: The final FST that officers will commonly administer during a DUI investigation is the One Leg Stand. In this test, the driver will be instructed to raise one foot about six inches off the ground and stand on one leg, with his hands at his sides, while counting to 30. During this test, the officer will be looking to see if the driver hops, raises his arms from his side for balance, puts his foot down, sways, slurs his speech while counting, or skips any numbers.
Once completing these FSTs, most officers will request that the driver take a Portable Breath Test, or “PBT.” This is a small, handheld device with a digital reader that the driver is asked to blow into and which provides a digital reading of breath alcohol content. If the breath alcohol content is anywhere close to .08, the officer will usually place the driver under arrest and transport him to a DUI van, the police station, or a hospital to draw blood.
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