Is a DUI a Felony in Phoenix, Arizona?

by Aaron Black • June 11, 2020

Felony DUI in Phoenix, AZAlthough many DUI cases are charged as misdemeanors for certain reasons and specific actions, Arizona prosecutors can charge a felony for a DUI offense.

Arizona has a zero-tolerance policy for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs and our Arizona is one of the seven strictest states in DUI law, while neighboring California and New Mexico are among the most lenient.

Arizona’s Felony DUIs

Arizona’s legislature has established six levels of felony charges for a DUI. A class 1 felony is the most serious and Class 6 is a step up from the misdemeanor classes.

A felony DUI in Phoenix, AZ can be charged under Arizona Revised Statute §28-1383(A) for the following reasons:
  • A person who has been convicted of a DUI and the court ordered that the person’s vehicle be fitted with an Ignition Interlock Device (IID). If that person is driving without an IID on any vehicle the state will charge a Class 6 felony.
  • People who are driving while impaired with a child younger than 15 are in the vehicle will earn a Class 6 felony charge.
  • Anyone who is driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs with a driver’s license revoked, suspended, restricted or canceled will be charged with a Class 4 felony.
  • Drivers who have a third DUI conviction within seven years of the date of the first DUI conviction will be charged with a Class 4 felony.
  • If someone who has consumed alcohol or drugs and caused damage to the property while under the influence, such as a car crash, will be charged with a Class 4 felony.
  • Those who are impaired by alcohol or drugs and drive the wrong way on surface streets or highways can be charged with a Class 4 felony.
  • A motorist driving impaired by alcohol or drugs and causes a crash that kills someone in their car or another vehicle will be charged with a Class 2 felony for vehicular manslaughter. 

In Actual Physical Control

You don’t have to be driving to be charged with a felony DUI in Phoenix, AZ. All prosecutors need to prove is that you were in “actual physical control” of the motorized vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drug. So, if you are sleeping in the vehicle but are in the driver’s seat with the ignition key in your pocket you’re considered under Arizona law to be in actual physical control. Your access to the vehicle is “present” or “imminent.”

These are some of the observations a traffic officer can use to make the arrest using actual physical control:
  • The engine was running
  • The key was in the ignition slot
  • The driver was in the driver’s seat
  • Was the driver asleep or awake
  • The vehicle’s headlights were on
  • The vehicle was stopped on the side of the road
Arizona law makes it illegal to be impaired to the “slightest degree even if the person Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is lower than the state’s 0.08 percent base level or for commercial drivers 0.04 percent. Every person’s metabolism processes alcohol at different rates so it’s difficult to judge how much to drink resulting in a felony DUI in Arizona.

Arizona DUI Felony Punishments

Felony convictions come with prison sentences and fines and surcharges in four figures. Judges in rendering felony sentences have discretion under Arizona’s sentencing guidelines, which have ranges of seriousness, Mitigated, Presumptive, and Aggravated.
  • Mitigated - Mitigated is used if some evidence is in your favor, such as no previous convictions
  • Presumptive - is the middle ground
  • Aggravated - Aggravated is used when a physical force of some sort is used in committing the offense or a child was in the car when the DUI occurred
The presumptive penalty for Class 6 felony is a year in state prison and if an aggravating factor is proven the prison sentence is two years. A Class 4 felony raises the presumptive sentence to 2.5 years and an aggravated charge adds another six months. A Class 2 felony’s presumptive sentence is five years in prison and an aggravated conviction boosts prison time to 12.5 years.

Beyond incarceration, a felony conviction will follow you for life and can permanently impact your life. Felons lose the Second Amendment right to own and possess a firearm and the right to vote in local and federal elections. Landing a job can be difficult and landlords, who have a duty to protect their residents from harm, may not rent you a place to live.

For most class 4 felony Aggracated DUI charges four months in the department of corrections is mandatory as a term of probation.

Defenses for a DUI in Phoenix, AZ

Your defense begins when you are approached by law enforcement. You have a Constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment to refuse to answer any questions to avoid self-incrimination. You also have the right to be represented by an attorney during questioning.

The authorities are human and can make mistakes.
  • An officer may not have had a legal reason to stop you in the first place
  • The officer failed to advise you of your Miranda rights at the time of the arrest
These errors will mean your case will be dismissed.

The prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt so the defense will work to establish a doubt by conducting an independent investigation and scrutinizing the evidence the state has against you looking for errors.

It may be possible to negotiate with the prosecution to reduce the Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

I encourage you to contact an experienced DUI Defense Attorney in Phoenix, AZ immediately.

Free, Confidential Legal Advice

The Law Office of Aaron M. Black offers free, confidential legal advice. During our consultation, you can learn more about your particular situation during an assessment of your case.

We can have our meeting during a phone call and I also use text, email, and online at FaceTime.

Contact Phoenix, AZ DUI Defense attorney Aaron Black or call (480) 729-1683 to arrange your case review.

I am available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and I defend felony DUI charges in Arizona’s justice, municipal, state, and federal courts.

About the Author

Aaron 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 matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes and white-collar crime.

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 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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