Arizona DUI Task Force Arrests 2,000 Drivers in 2021 Holiday Season

by Aaron M. Black • January 20, 2022

Drinking During the HolidaysAn Arizona-wide task force comprised of nearly 90 law enforcement agencies trained 1,800 officers to participate in Operation Safe Roads over the December holiday season and they made nearly 2,000 DUI arrests by the end of December.

The number of DUI arrests made in December 2021 is more than in year 2020 but less than in 2019 when more than 2,100 DUI arrests were made, reports Operation Safe Roads, which is a campaign organized by ABC television to report on driver safety and bad roads.

Included in the 2,000 arrests, the task forces made 600 drug impaired arrests, fewer than in year 2019. Recreational marijuana was legalized in 2020.

Deadly DUI involved wrecks

DUI Wreck - Head on Collision
The deadliest time of the year in Arizona is between Thanksgiving and the New Year’s Eve. During these days in 2020, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) reported that 1,057 fatalities occurred statewide with 2021 close behind claiming the lives of 1,047 -- without counting New Year’s Eve statistics, reports Operation Safe Roads.

Driving the wrong way resulted in 269 crashes during a 10-year period from 2004 to 2014 with 65 percent of those involving alcohol and drug impairment, according to an ADOT study cited by Operation Safe Roads.

Nationally, an average of 300 to 400 lives a year are ended by wrong way drivers, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

To catch wrong way drivers in Greater Phoenix and alert motorists of the impending danger, Phoenix area uses thermal detection cameras at certain freeway off ramps and ADOT Traffic Operations issues a wrong way driver warning on overhead freeway signs.

DUI checkpoints

DUI CheckpointsLaw enforcement’s tools to catch impaired drivers during holidays are “rolling” checkpoints.

Motorists are randomly stopped at checkpoints as officers look for the driver’s signs of impairment and open alcoholic containers. Because drivers are randomly selected to be stopped, they are not in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which bans illegal searches and seizures. But drivers who attempt to avoid a checkpoint only give officers the probable cause or reasonable suspicion that is necessary to detain the driver.

The rolling checkpoints are traffic officers who make traffic stops based on drivers who break a traffic law, such as driving too slowly, vehicle equipment failures and expired registration. Maricopa County and various city police departments send out more officers on patrol.

Arizona’s slightly impaired law

A motorist who is just slightly impaired, and that means less than the threshold blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, will be charged with a DUI under Arizona Revised Statute 28-1381(A)(1).

The officer who makes the traffic stop determines if the driver is slightly impaired base on the officers experience and training.

Slightly impaired varies from person to person depending upon body weight, gender, and how quickly or slowly the body’s metabolism absorbs and eliminates alcohol. Experienced drinkers have a tolerance for alcohol. The amount of time that passes between the last drink and the traffic stop is also a factor.

A driver can be slightly impaired by drugs, even prescription medicines. Arizona uses tests of blood and urine to determine the level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana impairment.

Greater Phoenix uses officers who are drug recognition experts (DRE). They have completed a three phase evaluation and classification education program to evaluate if a person is drug impaired. In cases that a traffic officer is not trained as a DRE, the driver can be detained until a drug trained officer is sent to the location to conduct an evaluation.

Actual Physical Control - Keys in Ignition

Actual physical control

If a person who is suspected of impairment is not actually driving, that person can be arrested for being in actual physical control of the vehicle, which takes many forms. Fundamentally, the key for the ignition needs to be within reach, such as in the ignition switch, a purse or pocket.

It is easy to avoid arrest for violating this law. Simply place the ignition key in the trunk or some other place outside the passenger cabin such as on top of one of the vehicle’s tires.

Charges for violating Arizona’s DUI law

Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious of the six classes of misdemeanors.

These are DUI blood alcohol levels: 0.08 but less than 0.15. More than 0.15 but less than 0.20 is an extreme DUI and super extreme is more than 0.20 BAC.

A DUI becomes a far more serious felony if an aggravated factor is involved. Having a child younger than 15 in the vehicle or causing an injury or death while driving impaired are among aggravated factors.

Misdemeanor DUI penalties

The penalty for a conviction is serving one day in county jail, but the time can be reduced to one day in custody. Fines and surcharges total approximately $1,500 for a first conviction and are increased to $3,468 for a second conviction.

Other expenses occur when the judge orders the defendant to pay for and finish an alcohol screening, education and treatment program, and renting an interlock ignition device that prevents the engine from starting if a breathalyzer detects alcohol. Serving time in a community service program also can be ordered by the judge.

The defendant’s driver’s license is suspended for 30 days, and after that, a restricted license can be issued for 60 days to travel to work or school.

Drivers who have a previous DUI conviction face more harsh penalties.

Misdemeanor DUI Defenses

Getting arrested for a misdemeanor DUI is one thing but being convicted may not necessarily follow. These are the common DUI defenses:
  • The patrol officer did not have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop which is constitutionally necessary;
  • The officer did not administer one or more of the field sobriety tests properly or failed to inquire or consider the detainee’s physical condition which could have prevented the proper execution of the officer’s instructions;
  • The officer did not at the moment of an arrest recite the necessary Miranda Rights to remain silent or to have an attorney present at the interrogation;
  • The breathalyzer test result was flawed because the device was not calibrated correctly or had other issues producing an inaccurate result;
  • If blood was drawn, the sample became tainted because of improper storage or a human handling error;
  • The police report contained errors or did not include mitigating factors.


Aaron M. Black Law for your DUI defense in Phoenix

Those who became a DUI statistic during the holidays will need a seasoned DUI defense attorney such as myself to aggressively establish a successful defense. I know that good people can make a mistake and that is why I fight hard to win cases.

I will conduct an independent investigation into the charges looking for any mistakes made by law enforcement such as errors or omissions in the police report and the performance record of the arresting officer.

In using Aaron M. Black Law you will never be relegated to an assistant as large law firms do. You will always be talking directly to me at every stage during the case.

Begin your defense by calling 480-729-1683 at any time day or night, weekends or holidays, and I will respond promptly unless I am at trial or in court. Or use my online contact form.
I defend DUI charges in justice, municipal, state, and federal courts in and adjacent to Maricopa County.


About the Author

Aaron Black Phoenix DUI LawyerAaron Black is the founder and sole attorney of the Law Office of Aaron Black. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, his DUI and criminal defense law firm provides legal services to people who have received felony or misdemeanor charges from the state.

Aaron has developed a strong interest in defending people who have been arrested and received criminal charges for driving under the influence. With his professionalism and knowledge of Arizona DUI and criminal law, he has acted as a check and balance on the police, prosecution and courts and has protected a great number of his clients from excessive and unfair sentencing.

Along with DUI defense, Aaron handles a range of other criminal defense matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes, and white-collar crime cases.

After graduating college in 2003 from the University of Arizona, Aaron decided to pursue a law degree. He followed a family long tradition and went to the University of South Dakota School of Law where he pursued his goal of becoming a criminal defense lawyer.

After passing the Arizona and South Dakota bar exams, Aaron joined the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender where he defended hundreds of people charged with serious criminal offenses. His work as a public defender helped him sharpen his litigation skills and gave him a unique insight into the Arizona criminal justice system.

Over the course of his 15-year legal career, Aaron has spent a considerable amount of time in both Arizona justice, municipal, state and federal courts. He has argued over 50 jury trials, tried over 100 bench trials and has become one of the highest-rated criminal and DUI defense attorneys in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. He has received a 10/10 rating from the legal directory Avvo because of his legal background and successful case record. Since 2014, he has received the Super Lawyer rating for his work as a Phoenix DUI Attorney and criminal defense attorney.

You can review Aaron’s Attorney Bio page for more information about his background, education and experience as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.
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