Arizona’s Fentanyl DUI Charge Defenses

by Aaron M. Black • August 29, 2023

Fentanyl overdoses happen on Phoenix, Scottsdale, and other Arizona roads, resulting in DUIs.

Case in point: A Mesa police officer was arrested and charged with a DUI involving fentanyl after that opiate was found in his system. He was allegedly unconscious in his patrol car in the middle of a traffic lane with the engine running, according to news reports. That officer is fighting the DUI and fentanyl charges and is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


The Federal Drug Administration says fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl was developed to ease pain for cancer patients.

Possessing a narcotic drug such as fentanyl is a Class 4 felony under Arizona Revised Statute §13-3408 (A)(1) and a conviction means a prison sentence of one year to 1.5 years followed by life-changing consequences.

Fentanyl has been found in other drugs, so many drug users have no idea what they are taking. To combat that, Governor Ducey in May 2021 signed into law a provision to remove fentanyl testing products from Arizona’s list of illegal drug paraphernalia, which allows drug users to identify drugs that have been laced with fentanyl.

Getting behind the wheel after ingesting fentanyl is a dangerous decision and an invitation to enter Arizona’s justice system.

Drug Impaired Driving

Arizona Revised Statute §28-1381(A)(1) reads that, “It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state under any of the following circumstances:  While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.”

An impaired person need not be driving and only needs immediate access to the ignition key while stopped to receive a DUI for drugs or alcohol.


Drug Recognition Experts (DRE)

Arizona has specially trained officers working fentanyl DUI cases.

Training law enforcement officers to detect someone impaired by drugs is a three-phase program consisting of 88 hours of instruction. The DRE officer, who can make mistakes, looks for signs of illicit or prescription drug impairment, including the size of the pupils, pulse rate, muscle tone tightness or flaccidity, needle injection sites, and interrogating the driver to help determine the type of drug and a toxicology test. The driver may refuse to participate in the breathalyzer and the DRE evaluation at the cost of a license suspension or revocation.
Before a traffic officer can detain a driver, the officer must have probable cause, meaning that the officer suspects the driver is impaired or has witnessed the driver breaking a traffic law.


Misdemeanor Fentanyl DUI Penalties

  • Arizona’s drugged driving law is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most severe of misdemeanors. Penalties for a first-time Class 1 misdemeanor is serving time in county jail for a minimum of 10 days and up to a maximum of six months. But the 10-day sentence may be reduced to one day in custody.
  • The license to drive is suspended for 30 days, and after that, a restricted license can be issued to travel to work or school for 60 days.
  • Fines and surcharges total $1,250 for a first conviction and jump to $3,468 for a second DUI conviction.
  • Other expenses are if the judge orders the defendant to pay for and finish drug screening, education, and treatment program. Serving time in a community service program also can be court-ordered.

Common Fentanyl DUI Defenses

Every case has a unique fact pattern that is paramount in establishing a defense. These are common defenses:
  • The arresting officer had no legal reason to make a traffic stop. It is a defense if the officer did not have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is about to happen.
  • The officer did not, as required by law, advise you of your Miranda rights to remain silent and have an attorney present during interrogation.
  • 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 DRE officer’s evaluation was an opinion based on preconceived notions, not science.
  • A blood sample became tainted because of improper storage or a human handling error.
  • Factual errors in the police report, or omissions that would have helped the defendant, and the arresting officer’s record looking for mistakes or proof that the officer was biased.
  • There was no intent. You had no idea fentanyl was in what you consumed and you would not have consumed it had you known.

Aaron M. Black Law for Fentanyl DUI Defense

Should you or someone you care for be charged or are under investigation for a fentanyl related DUI, it is imperative that you have an experienced DUI defense attorney such as myself to defend you at the earliest possible time.

From my decades-long career as a DUI defense attorney, I know that good people can find themselves in legal trouble. That is why I am dedicated to ensuring my clients have the best defense possible.

My goal is to win a dismissal of the charges. Working toward that end, I conduct a thorough legal analysis of the state’s evidence and perform my own investigation to challenge the state’s theory of the case.

Should authorities have a strong case, a plea agreement is an alternative to reduce the severity of the charge. But, pursuing this is the decision of the defendant.

At Aaron M. Black Law, you will receive personalized legal services at every step of your case. You will always be talking directly to me, and I provide encouragement and support during this difficult episode in your life.

Begin your DUI defense immediately by calling 480-729-1683 at any time on any day, and I will respond promptly unless I am in court or in a trial. Or use the online contact form on my website.

I defend fentanyl DUI cases in courts in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and throughout Arizona, including Maricopa, Pinal, Yavapai, and Coconino County courts.

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.
Google Screened Attorney - Phoenix DUI and Criminal Defense
We've just been vetted by Google screening. This process provides peace of mind to consumers that the attorney they are choosing passes both business and personal background checks, has malpractice insurance, and has a current license to practice law in the state.


Subscribe to the RSS feed

DUI or Criminal Related Question?
Send me an email.

I will promptly respond unless I am in court.