Arizona’s Tough Underage Drinking and Driving Law

by Aaron M. Black • April 26, 2024

Underage DrinkingDrivers who are not old enough to legally consume alcohol but drink and drive anyway are exposing themselves to criminal prosecution under Arizona’s strict 
DUI laws and its DUI Zero Tolerance Policy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control one in 10 high school students drink and drive. In greater Phoenix as many as 11 percent of teens in Arizona drink and drive.

Unlike the DUI law for adults, the level of blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) for underage drinkers is just a trace, far less than the .08 percent for the legal drinking age. And a trace of marijuana or other drugs is also an offense.

In fact, the accused does not need to be driving to be arrested. All that is required by law is to be in “actual physical control” of the vehicle.

That means if the driver has access to the ignition key in a pocket or laying on a seat while parked that is enough to be charged with a DUI.

Underage drinkers between 8 and 18 who are charged will have their case in Juvenile Court.

Two exceptions to teen drinking

There are two exceptions in A.R.S.§4-244 (34) . One is that consuming alcohol is part of an authentic religious ceremony. The other is for a genuine medicinal reason. But the spirits must be consumed in a manner that doesn’t endanger the public’s health or safety under, A.R.S. §4-244 (41).

Potential related charges

In addition to the underage drinking and driving charge, other charges can be brought depending upon the circumstances.

These charges are possession of alcohol by a minor, distributing alcohol to underage passengers, child endangerment, having a false identification to purchase spirits or soliciting an adult to buy alcohol. If the vehicle was stopped for a moving violation, a failed tail light or some other equipment, a violation also will be charged.

If death or a serious injury resulted, then far more serious charges come into play; particularly vehicular manslaughter, which is a very serious felony with years in state prison if convicted. A juvenile, between 14 and 17 years old, in that situation may be charged as an adult in Arizona.

Consequences of an underage misdemeanor drinking and driving conviction

The maximum sentence for an underage drinking and driving conviction is six months in jail, three years of probation,  and $2500 in fines.

The minimum sentence with this particular charge could just be a conviction. Unlike an AZ DUI conviction under ARS 28-1381 or ARS 28-1382, there are no mandatory fines or mandatory jail. However, with any conviction, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department will suspend the driver’s license for 2 years.

Only the sentencing judge can allow a restricted license during this time period. The judge will order the day and time a person can drive. The judge will order that driving is only to and from work or school.

In order to obtain the restricted license MVD will require...
  1. SR22 insurance
  2. An ignition interlock device be installed on any vehicles driven by the defendant
  3. Completion of an alcohol screening behavioral interview with a behavioral health professional or technician
  4. The court’s order from the sentencing judge

Under Age Drinking and Driving Defenses

The first line of defense is to invoke the Fifth Amendment to prevent self-incrimination by talking to police and the officer must stop asking questions.
Arizona has several defenses for underage drinking and driving charges, and underage drinking and driving cases have their particular set of facts that help determine a defense strategy. These are common DUI Defenses:
  • Police did not have a legal right to detain you
  • Authorities made errors during the field sobriety test
  • Breathalyzer and blood test results are flawed
  • How quickly a person can process alcohol below DUI level
  • Police did not advise you of your right to remain silent and have a defense attorney present during questioning
  • Errors or omissions were made on the police report
  • Investigate the arresting officer’s job performance history for bias

Aaron M. Black Law for DUI defense

Should you or someone you care for be arrested or under investigation for an underage drinking DUI, it is imperative that you have an experienced and aggressive DUI defense attorney such as myself to defend you at the earliest possible time.

In my decades long career as a DUI defense attorney, I know that good people can find themselves in legal trouble. That is why I work diligently to ensure they have the best defense possible. My goal is always to get the charge dismissed. Should police have a strong case I will, with your permission, negotiate a plea agreement for a lesser charge, such as reckless driving.

Aaron M. Black Law provides personalized legal services. You will always be talking directly to me at every step of your DUI case.

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 on at trial. Or use the online contact form on my website.

I defend DUI cases 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.
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