Arizona’s Zero Tolerance DUI Laws

by Aaron M. Black • January 12, 2024

Arizona’s Zero Tolerance law has been a game changer in DUI prosecutions, defenses and in other charges including speeding, bullying, and custom knives.

Is Arizona a zero tolerance state for alcohol?

Yes, Arizona is a zero-tolerance state and it has made it possible for a DUI defendant to be convicted even though the level of alcohol is below Arizona’s legal blood-alcohol limit baseline at 0.08 percent of blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). The policy also extends to drug DUIs, including medical marijuana and prescription medications.

Arizona Zero Tolerance DUI Law - Zero Tolerance Written On Pavement

So, for example, a person whose Blood Alcohol Content registered 0.05 can be arrested. If you are driving a commercial vehicle the legal limit is just .04 under Arizona law.
Bottom line: Zero Tolerance is impaired and under the influence of alcohol to the slightest degree.

A motorist does not need to be driving to be arrested for DUI. The suspected driver only needs to be in "actual physical control" of the vehicle. It could be parked in a shopping center with the alleged drunken driver asleep in the car. However, depending on how you were parked, where you were parked, where they key is located, it is possible to argue that you were simply using the vehicle as a temporary shelter.

What does Arizona DUI law say about zero tolerance?

Drop of Blood For BAC TestArizona, as a zero tolerance state, means that DUI law is very strict. The charge is often based simply on the on the officer’s observations and opinions.

Underage drinking drivers are breaking the law if any amount of alcohol or drugs is in their systems.

The law states, an adult who has a BAC of 0.05 percent or less that "it may be presumed that the defendant was not under the influence of intoxicating liquor." (Source ARS 28-1381 G1).

The law states if a driver had a BAC of 0.05 percent but less than the baseline of 0.08 "that fact shall not give rise to a presumption that the defendant was or was not under the influence….but that fact may be considered with other competent evidence in determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence." (Source ARS 28-1281 G2)

Using the word “may” in the law gives the arresting police officer discretion in making an arrest or not.

Does Arizona have zero tolerance for marijuana and medical marijuana?

People who qualify as a medical marijuana patient are not subject to prosecution under Arizona Revised Statute §36-2801 for using marijuana. But they can be charged with impaired driving under ARS 28-1381A1. Under ARS §36-2802, a patient cannot be legally considered impaired if the metabolites concentration are insufficient to cause impairment.

But if marijuana use is sufficient to cause impairment, the medial patient can be charged with impairment to the slightest degree. Prosecutors will always argue you are impaired with any amount of THC in your system. A defense expert will be necessary to combat this allegation.

Marijuana DUI - Car Key and Marijuana LeafArizona has trained some law enforcement officers as drug recognition experts (DRE). They are called to the traffic stop to evaluate the DUI suspected impaired driver.

DRE police officers look 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 and the license can be suspended or revoked.

Does Arizona have zero tolerance for prescription drugs?

Prescription drugs that cause drowsiness can impair the person’s ability to drive. Medications  that contain codeine, opioid pain relievers, anti-seizure muscle relaxants, motion sickness, sleeping pills, anti-seizure, diarrhea, and even some over the counter cold and allergy medications.

Prescription-only drugs are defined in Arizona Revised Statute §13-3401 as medications deemed by the medical community to be safe when taken as prescribed by a physician.

Prescription Drug DUI - Pills Coming Out of Prescription Bottle

Why did Arizona adopt Zero Tolerance?

In the early 1980s, driving impaired was not as malevolent in the public eye as it has become. In fact, some states reduced the drinking age to 18, resulting in an increase in fatal crashes and growing public awareness, spawning a change of attitudes driven by advocacy efforts and the work of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Many states, including the State of Arizona DUI laws, adopted a “zero tolerance policy” for impaired driving. Arizona’s Zero Tolerance began in 1995 when the National Highway Systems Designation Act was adopted.

The policy initially was directed at underage drinking and driving but soon after the addition of the mature motorist offender was added.

What are Arizona’s DUI defenses?

With Zero Tolerance, the traffic officer has wide discretion in deciding if an offense against Arizona’s strict DUI laws was committed. This also provides opportunities for DUI lawyers to challenge the charges.

As your DUI defense lawyer, I will conduct my own investigation of the state’s evidence, the police procedures the state used to establish a reasonable doubt, along with developing mitigating factors and evidence favorable to the you, the defendant, that investigators overlooked or ignored.

These are common DUI defenses:

  • The arresting officer did not have the necessary probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop.
  • The officer did not properly administer a portion of the field sobriety test or failed to consider the detainee’s physical history, preventing the proper execution of the officer’s instructions.
  • The officer did not recite the Miranda Rights to remain silent or to have an attorney present at the interrogation.
  • The breathalyzer test result was flawed because the machine was not properly calibrated and produced an incorrect result.
  • If blood was drawn, the sample was tainted because of improper storage or human error.
  • You did not have actual physical control of a motor vehicle.

Each DUI case is different and will have many factors in determining the best possible defense for you. There may be other approaches to defending your case.

Arizona's DUI Laws, including its' Zero-Tolerance law, can result in harsh criminal penalties

Even if you just had a few drinks, for a first offense DUI, possible jail time, and/or home detention, driver’s license suspension (having your driving privileges taken away from you), mandatory installation of a certified ignition interlock device, hours of community service, education, all in addition to fines, fees and jail costs that add up quickly. That's for a standard DUI which is still a criminal offense.

Different types of DUIs

If you are charged with a more serious aggravated DUI, extreme DUI, or super extreme DUI, your jail sentence could be measured in months or years, with higher penalties. Second offense DUI charges, or heaven help you Third offense all increase the consecutive days you'll receive in jail time or time in a state prison.

Arizona’s DUI laws are some of the toughest in the United States and Arizona’s zero-tolerance law is just one of them. For a complete review click on the following link > Arizona's DUI Laws.

Aaron M. Black Law For DUI Defense

Should you or a loved one be arrested for a DUI offense, it is imperative that you be promptly represented by an experienced DUI defense attorney such as myself. In my decades long career as an aggressive DUI defense attorney, I know that good people can make a mistake and find themselves in legal trouble. That is why I work diligently to construct the best DUI defense possible while providing support and encouragement. That’s our DUI Concierge approach to your legal challenges.

I will scrutinize the state’s evidence for errors, omissions and the personnel records of the arresting officer looking for inconsistencies and errors. I also will work to develop information and evidence that is favorable to your case.

At Aaron M. Black Law you will receive personalized legal services. You will always be talking directly to me, never an assistant.

Begin your DUI defense immediately by calling 480-729-1683 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 charges in Scottsdale, and Phoenix Arizona, and throughout the state, including Maricopa, Pinal, Yavapai, and Coconino County Superior 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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