Arizona’s First-Time Misdemeanor DUI: Consequences and Defenses

by Aaron M. Black • July 28, 2021

DUI StopAfter enjoying the company of family with alcoholic beverages served, or friends offering legal marijuana, a misjudgment is made. Red and blue lights flash in the rear view mirror – an invitation to enter the criminal justice system in greater Phoenix on a first-time DUI offense.

At the arrest, the suspect is taken to a police station for booking and arranging for bail. That could be at any one of seven police precincts including…

Black Mountain - 33355 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix AZ, 85331
Cactus Park - 12220 N 39th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85029
Central City - 1902 South 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85034
Desert Horizon - 16030 North 56th Street, Scottsdale, AZ  85254
Mountain View - 2075 East Maryland Avenue, Phoenix, AZ  85016
Maryvale - 6180 W. Encanto Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85035
South Mountain - 400 West Southern Ave., Phoenix, Arizona 85041

Next is the initial appearance. Later is the preliminary hearing when the state presents its evidence, and then trial. Negotiations happen in between.

'Slightest degree' law

First Time DUIPhoenix Arizona, with some of the most strident DUI laws in the nation, has a zero tolerance policy for impaired driving. This means that a driver can be arrested and convicted of a DUI even if the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08 percent under Arizona Revised Statute §28-1381(A)(1).

The term “slightest degree” is purposefully vague. The prosecution will not have the legal BAC level to charge but it will rely upon the arresting officer’s judgement.

If a driver makes a turn without signaling or some other violation, a traffic officer has a probable cause or reasonable suspicion to make the stop. If the officer’s judgement is that the driver is even a bit tipsy that is sufficient to make the DUI arrest.

Actual Physical Control - Keys in IgnitionActual physical control

A motorist does not need to be driving to be charged with a DUI in Phoenix. Arizona’s “Actual Physical Control” law allows the officer to make an arrest even if the car is not in motion.

If the motorist is asleep in a parking lot with the ignition key in a pocket that constitutes actual physical control as will many other situations involving the location of the ignition key.

Marijuana consumption

Although marijuana is legal to buy and consume, operating a vehicle while high is not and marijuana DUIs are problematic. Moreover, the plant’s THC production stays in the system far longer than alcohol. Even medical marijuana patients can be charged with impaired driving.

How much alcohol can lead to a DUI?

Intoxication is determined by several factors – a person’s gender, weight, age, the body’s rate of metabolism for absorbing and eliminating alcohol, and a tolerance for alcohol that experienced drinkers develop over time. Eating before drinking can slow down intoxication.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines what one standard alcoholic drink is: 1.5 ounces of 80 proof spirits such as vodka and whiskey, a 12 ounce bottle of beer, eight ounces of malt liquor, and a five ounce glass of wine.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety offers a “standard” gauge rating the level of intoxication: A person weighing 140 pounds who consumes three drinks will achieve a BAC of 0.069 and a 180 pound person who consumes four drinks is close to the legal limit at 0.72 BAC.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that having a BAC of 0.02 causes a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time; 0.05 BAC causes reduced coordination and difficulty steering and reduced response to an emergency; 0.08 BAC impacts concentration, short term memory loss and impaired perception; and 0.10 BAC reduces ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately.

If you feel in any way just a little bit different while drinking, you should not drive. Instead, use a sober designated driver or take advantage of a local service providing a safe ride home.

First Class 1 misdemeanor DUI consequences in Phoenix & Scottsdale, AZ

A first-time Class 1 misdemeanor DUI charge is a serious offense, one step below moving into the felony range and the consequences of a conviction mean a criminal record that will become public.

The law requires spending time in county jail up to a maximum of six months and a minimum of 10 days. However, the time in custody can be as short as one day with the other nine days suspended. The catch is the convicted defendant needs to pay for and successfully finish an alcohol abuse class. Home detention may be possible after serving one day in jail.

The court may order that all vehicles available to the defendant be fitted with an ignition interlock device that prevents the engine from starting if the device detects alcohol on the driver’s breath for one year, which can be reduced to six months if the driver does not test positive.

The financial burden for a DUI in AZ can be expensive with fines and surcharges totaling $1,510.50 which includes $500 for public safety equipment and another $500 payable to Arizona’s prison fund. Payment for incarceration can be reduced or eliminated by the court.

A first-time class 1 misdemeanor DUI conviction also requires the license to drive be suspended for 30 days, followed by a restricted license for traveling to work or school for 60 days before the license can be reinstated at the defendant’s expense. A conviction adds eight points against the license and taking out SR-22 (safety responsibility) insurance which is a certificate to prove that the defendant has auto insurance. Note, too, that a first-time DUI will make auto insurance more expensive.

The court may require the defendant to serve community restitution, and may order a term of probation for up to five years and paying probation fees is a possibility.

First-time misdemeanor DUI defenses in Phoenix

Your defense begins at the traffic stop. You have the protection of the Fifth Amendment to remain silent and the Sixth Amendment to have an attorney during questioning. Anything you do say will be used against you. The officer must advise you of these “Miranda rights” at the moment of arrest so why not politely invoke them at the start.

The officer will want to conduct a field sobriety test such as balancing on one foot. Refusing to take these tests will result in a suspension of your license. It can be that a physical ailment will eschew the result of these tests.

Common misdemeanor DUI defenses are:
  • The arresting officer did not have the necessary probable cause or reasonable suspicion, which cannot simply be a hunch, to stop you.
  • The field sobriety test was not performed correctly.
  • The arresting office failed to recite the Miranda rights.
  • The breathalyzer test result was inaccurate because it was out of calibration.
  • A blood test, if performed, was faulty because the sample was tainted.

Why choose Aaron M. Black Law as your DUI Attorney

It is unnerving to be charged with a misdemeanor DUI, but it is crucial to promptly have an experienced criminal defense attorney with a record of defending DUI cases representing you. As a criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling DUI cases and trials, I know that good people can make a bad choice, but that should not ruin a life or a livelihood.

Aaron M. Black Law has many years of experience defending first-time misdemeanor DUI cases, always with the goal of earning a dismissal of the charge. If that is not possible, I will work with the prosecution to negotiate a lesser charge of reckless driving.

I provide personalized legal services so throughout your case you will always be talking to me, never an assistant. Unlike large law firms I limit the number of cases I handle.
Begin your defense by calling 480-729-1683 at any time, day or night, weekends or holidays and I will promptly respond unless I am in court or in trial. Or, use the easy contact form here.

I defend misdemeanor DUI cases in justice, municipal, state and federal courts in and adjacent to Maricopa County. This includes the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale among others.

About Aaron M. Black

  • The National Trial Lawyers Association rates me among the top 100 trial lawyers in the country.
  • The National Association of Distinguished Counsel places me in the top one percent of the finest lawyers in the nation.
  • For the 8th consecutive year, I was named a 2021 DUI Super Lawyer in Phoenix. Please learn more about me here.


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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