The state of Arizona takes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs very seriously. It is possible to be under the legal blood alcohol limit and to still be charged with driving while intoxicated if a police officer has reason to believe that you were impaired just slightly enough to affect your judgment. The reason for this draconian enforcement of DUI laws in the state comes down to A.R.S 28-1381.
What is A.R.S 28-1381
The passage of A.R.S 28-1381 made it possible for law enforcement officers to make a determination on-site whether a person is legally impaired. It is a known fact that any amount of alcohol or the presence of certain medications and street drugs in a person’s blood can influence their ability to operate a vehicle. If you are pulled over while under the influence to any degree, it is possible to be charged with what is called misdemeanor DUI/DWI.
The penalties that can come with this charge are far worse than those imposed anywhere else in the United States for the same offense. For this reason, it is important to understand the charges when preparing a legal defense. Being able to prove that you were under the legal BAC limit is not enough to exonerate yourself from a charge of being slightly impaired.
Being Medicated Counts as Impairment
Driving while under the influence of alcohol is not the only way that you can be charged with a misdemeanor DUI/DWI. If you are on any form of medication that can make you drowsy or interfere with your judgment, you may be considered to be impaired. Pain medication, local anesthesia from medical procedures, and recreational drugs can all affect your ability to drive a vehicle and land you in legal trouble.
Many people learn the hard way that they should take greater caution when they have been prescribed medication for pain or need to have minor medical procedures performed. In most cases, it is wiser to arrange to have someone else drive you if you are going to be under the influence of any medication or substance with mind-altering effects. Since it is up to the police officer who pulls you over to determine whether you are “slightly impaired” or not, this determination can be subjective.
Possible Penalties for Misdemeanor DUI
Even if it is your first time being charged with a DUI, the penalties that you face can be frightening. The maximum jail sentence for an A.R.S 28-1381 charge is six months, and you may be fined up to $2,500. To make matters worse, this may not be the only charge you face. Depending on your level of impairment, you can be charged with A.R.S 28-1381 in addition to more serious DUI charges.
If your BAC content was above 0.08, it is possible to face felony charges in addition to this class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you would be subject to a longer jail sentence and a greater fine. However, it is rare that first-time offenders are given the maximum penalty for their offenses. Even the minimums are meant to deter driving while under the influence. You would be looking at $1,250 in addition to court costs and surcharges and would need to undergo regular alcohol screening and install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for a year.
Being convicted of even a misdemeanor DUI can be life-altering, regardless of the circumstances leading to the charges. The penalties get far worse if you are found to be a repeat offender, which include financial hardship, possible jail time, and the loss of your driving privileges. In society today, being able to drive is nearly synonymous with freedom itself.
Why a Strong Legal Defense is Necessary
Even if the evidence is clearly against you, it is important that you seek legal counsel when facing a DUI charge and not to admit guilt. An experienced attorney can review your case and determine if there are any ways to mount a defense that will result in an acquittal or reduction in fines or sentence. When selecting legal representation, expertise and experience are important because an attorney with extensive knowledge of the process these types of cases go through will be able to advise you properly and ensure that you receive the best possible outcome.
Cates & Carvey Law Group specializes in criminal defense and represents clients throughout Arizona. Our attorneys have over fifty years of combined experience, giving us an advantage when taking on a client’s defense. Give us a call today at 855-965-4522 to learn more about your rights. We look forward to providing you with superior legal representation at a reasonable fee.