Arizona’s First-Time Felony DUI Conviction Means Prison

by Aaron M. Black • September 17, 2021

First Time Felony DUI - Conviction Means PrisonBeing charged with a first-time DUI felony in greater Phoenix and around the state does not have a direct relationship with the level of alcohol or drug induced impairment involved. A misdemeanor DUI charge, low level and even extreme and super extreme misdemeanors, are elevated to a far more serious felony because an “aggravated” factor is involved.

Felonies are grouped into six classes with the most serious a Class 1 and the least serious is a Class 6, but even that lesser class is trouble enough.

Arizona Revised Statute §28-1383 addresses the five factors associated with the DUI event that turns a misdemeanor DUI into a felony Aggravated DUI:
  1. A DUI becomes a felony if it is the adult defendant’s third misdemeanor DUI conviction within the past seven years dating back from the current charge, and is a Class 4 felony.
  2. Driving impaired with a revoked, canceled, or refused, suspended driver’s license is a Class 4 felony.
  3. Having a person younger than 15 years old in the vehicle when stopped for a DUI is a Class 6 felony.
  4. Drivers who do not have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed as ordered by an Arizona court is a Class 4 felony.
  5. A driver who enters a freeway such as the 101 or 202 in Phoenix, highway or a residential roadway going the wrong way, is committing a Class 4 felony. If a crash happens, endangerment, manslaughter, or vehicular homicide charges will be added. The driver also can be sued civilly to recover monetary damages and punitive damages.

Penalties for a first-time felony DUI conviction in Phoenix, AZ

Arizona sentencing guidelines are mitigated for those who have had no previous convictions of any kind, presumptive and aggravated.

A person who is a first-time aggravated DUI defendant if convicted will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of four months in state prison, not county jail. The maximum prison time for a Class 4 felony is 3.75 years. After release, a lengthy term of probation for up to 10 years may be ordered by the court.

Fines and surcharges for a Class 4 felony can total $4,675.50.

In addition to imprisonment, the convicted felon can be ordered by the court to submit to substance abuse screening for at least of 36 months and must have an IID installed for at least two years to prevent the engine starting if the device registers alcohol.

The vehicle will be impounded and the license to drive in Arizona will be suspended or even revoked.

Loss of rights and professional licenses

After earning the privilege to drive again in AZ, convicted felons will see big increases in auto insurance rates and must buy expensive SR-22 insurance, which is really a certificate that legally proves you have auto insurance. (SR stands for “safety responsibility.”)

Those who are convicted of a felony will be stripped of their constitutional right to have and possess a firearm and will lose the right to vote in elections, hold public office, or join the military. It will become problematic to hold or keep a job or to rent a place to live.

Those who hold professional licenses, such as teachers and real estate agents and many others, will lose their licenses but in some situations they may qualify for Arizona’s new Second Chance law for non-dangerous Class 4 and Class 6 felonies.

A felony conviction will never come off of your record. And, if convicted of another felony in the future, an aggravated DUI will be used against you, forever,  to enhance your sentence.

DUI Defense begins when stopped

Whether you are stopped on the 101, the 17 or in your own Phoenix neighborhood,  your defense begins at the traffic stop. Police will start asking incriminating and leading questions such as “how much have you had to drink tonight?” It is in your best interest to respectively decline to answer any questions, and that is your right under the Fifth Amendment. It is also your right to have an attorney present during interrogation to protect your rights.

You may recall that these rights were affirmed in the Miranda rights decision from an Arizona case long ago. Police are bound by law to advise you of these rights at the moment of arrest. My advice is to invoke these protections at the outset and questioning should stop.

Common first-time felony DUI defenses

The prosecution must prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt”, so the defense must establish evidence and arguments that cast doubt on the state’s case in the minds of jurors.

Each case has its unique set of facts and Arizona law provides for several defenses. As this is a first offense, the defense can argue that the defendant had a clean record until the DUI arrest and present other mitigating factors developed during a defense investigation of the charges.

Although the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is not a factor in aggravated charges, the state still must prove the defendant was driving while impaired.

Common DUI defenses are:

Breathalyzer Test for DUIThe arresting officer, be that a Phoenix city police department, or a Maricopa Sheriff’s deputy, did not have the necessary probable cause or reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop.

Challenge the accuracy of the breathalyzer test result.

Challenge the blood test result because the samples were stored improperly and are tainted.

The police report contained inaccuracies or errors.

Miranda rights were violated.

You did not know your license was suspended, revoked, canceled, or refused.

You did not know you were court ordered to have the ignition interlock in your vehicle.

Negotiating a plea agreement for a DUI

In some cases, it may be possible to strike a deal with the prosecutor to help reduce cases going to trial. For example, reducing the under age child in the car charge from the Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor. More details on The Art and Law of Plea Bargaining a DUI in Arizona.

Why select criminal Defense Attorney Aaron M. Black Law

With a mandatory four months in state prison hanging over your freedom and economic future if convicted of an aggravated DUI charge, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney such as myself representing you or a loved one at the earliest possible time.

Aaron M. Black Law knows that good people can find themselves in bad situations and my goal is always to get the charges dismissed, reducing the charge to a less serious offense, or to win an acquittal at trial.

In selecting me to conduct your defense, you will always have direct individual communication with me and you will never be handed off to an assistant. Defendants often complain of a lack of communication with their attorney. That does not happen at Aaron M. Black Law.

Launch your defense by calling 480-729-1683 at any time on any day, including weekends and holidays, and I will promptly return your call unless I am at trial or in court. Or use my online contact form.

I defend aggravated DUI charges and other criminal cases in justice, municipal, state and federal courts in and surrounding 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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