Arizona DUI Laws and Penalties Explained

Stephen R. Glazer

If you unknowingly broke a traffic rule and were charged with a DUI, or if you were mistakenly determined to be driving while intoxicated, talk to a criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable in this area of the law. It is also helpful to review the Arizona DUI laws and penalties to familiarize yourself with these legal statutes and the punishments for violating them.

At Glazer, Hammond, Ruben & Smets, PLLC, we only represent you when we believe that our services are the right fit and can offer you the quality legal assistance you deserve. Our experienced DUI attorneys pride themselves on creating client relationships based on direct and open communication as well as complete honesty and transparency.

What Are the Laws About Driving While Under the Influence in AZ?

In the state of Arizona, it is against the law to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other substances that impair your ability to effectively and safely drive an automobile. This intoxication is typically measured by testing a driver’s blood alcohol content/concentration (BAC); BAC levels at 0.08 percent or higher are considered to be over the legal limit and an impairment to your ability to operate a car.

Additionally, minors found driving with any alcohol (a BAC level above 0.00% is illegal for them) or drugs in their system will automatically be charged with a DUI. Intoxicated persons who are only found behind the wheel and not actively driving can still be charged with a DUI since the driver is still in a position of having “actual physical control” over the vehicle. You may also still be charged with a DUI within two hours of driving if your BAC is still above the legal limit.

Arizona’s “Shelter Rule” Law

Arizona passed the shelter rule to prevent drunk drivers from feeling pressured to drive to their destination or somewhere else in fear of getting caught while in violation of the law. The “Shelter Rule” states that pulling onto the roadside or in a parking area is a temporary shelter defense against DUI charges, as the driver is arguably relinquishing their physical, intoxicated, control of the vehicle.

Those who take these measures to avoid drunk driving must still take certain details into consideration to be legally viewed as not being in control of the car; just resting immediately after pulling over and parking isn’t sufficient. Sleeping in the back of the car with no keys in the ignition while parked somewhere late at night, when most people are likely to drink and drive, are the most sensible circumstances in which to observe someone as taking shelter.

Punishments for a DUI, Including When the Offense Is Aggravated or Extreme

A DUI is deemed as aggravated if you were driving with:

  • A suspended/revoked license
  • A child under 15 was in the vehicle
  • An ignition interlock device (IID) but refused a BAC test

This charge can also be applied if it was your third DUI violation within 84 months of your last conviction.

If convicted, this crime is viewed as a felony instead of the usual misdemeanor label. Penalties may include:

  • Up to two years in prison
  • No license for a year
  • Required alcohol education, treatment, and screening
  • An IID installed in your vehicle
  • Community service

Extreme DUIs are instances where the driver’s BAC is over .15 percent. A first extreme DUI conviction will result in a required 30-day minimum in jail without the potential for probation or suspended sentencing. Accompanying fines are at least $2,500, an IID installation is mandatory, and the offender must also participate in an alcohol education, screening, and treatment program.

A first DUI conviction with no extreme or aggravated circumstances requires:

  • 10 days minimum in jail
  • Up to five years of probation
  • A minimum of $1,250 in fines
  • A required IID installment
  • Community service
  • An alcohol education/treatment program

A second DUI charge has similar penalties, except the jail time increases to at least 90 days (at least 30 served consecutively), fines increase to a $3,000 minimum, and a license suspension can last a year or more.


Q: What Are the Penalties for DUI in Arizona?

A: DUI punishments in Arizona will vary depending on if it’s your first or a subsequent offense and if the DUI was aggravated or extreme. However, most DUI penalties will include some duration of time spent in jail and costly fines to pay. The more severe the circumstances, the more serious the punishments will be.

Additional potential penalties include:

  • IID installation in any car you drive
  • Community service
  • Alcoholism treatment and/or education
  • License suspension or revocation

Q: Can I Avoid Jail Time for a First DUI in Arizona?

A: If you are found guilty of a first DUI charge, you unfortunately cannot avoid the mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail. For this misdemeanor, you can also be sentenced to:

  • A minimum of $1,250 in fines
  • A required IID installment
  • Mandatory community service
  • Up to five years of probation
  • Alcohol education/treatment programs

Q: Is Arizona Strict About DUI?

A: Yes, the state of Arizona is very strict about deterring its citizens from driving while under the influence, and the law reflects this. Driving while intoxicated and impaired by alcohol or other drugs is a serious threat to the public’s safety. That is why the penalties for such violations are often severe so that similar behavior is strongly discouraged.

Q: Can a Lawyer Get You Out of a DUI in Arizona?

A: It’s never guaranteed that a DUI defense lawyer can get your charge dropped, but their assistance would only benefit you. They may be able to provide sufficient evidence to prove that:

  • You were not intoxicated above the legal limit.
  • The failed test(s) were inaccurate/unfair.
  • There was a lack of probable cause.

In addition to these, an attorney may use other defense arguments, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Even if you are found guilty, your attorney can still make a case for you to receive lighter penalties, such as less jail time, lower fines, or alternative options for punishments.

Don’t Accept the Maximum Penalties If You Don’t Have To

Glazer, Hammond, Ruben & Smets, PLLC, is composed of qualified legal professionals ready to discuss your case during a consultation. A skilled attorney can review the details and provide you with an idea of your options and how the legal proceedings might go.

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