Thanksgiving in Greater Phoenix Triggers DUIs

by Aaron M. Black • November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving Shouldn't Include a DUIThanksgiving, our nation’s oldest holiday, launches the year-end holiday season with family and friend revelers who drive when they should not. Authorities know that and they are on the lookout for drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications.

Authorities in greater Phoenix and across the state form checkpoints, randomly stopping vehicles, to check for open containers of alcoholic beverages and signs of driver impairment. These checkpoints have been common procedures for law enforcement since 1990 when the US Supreme Court held them legal in a 6-3 decision.

Law enforcement typically is in full force Valley wide with roving task forcees from Surprise (and not the good kind) to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe.

In 2018, nearly 2,000 DUI arrests were made over the Thanksgiving Holliday weekend. Numbers have been down in recent years due to COVID, but may be up again this year. Only time will tell.

Because the checkpoints stop vehicles randomly and briefly, they do not violate the Fourth Amendment. The rationale is catching impaired drivers overweighs detaining drivers for a short time.

Drivers who approach a checkpoint and turn around are giving authorities the necessary probable cause to make a traffic stop by a patrol car station near the checkpoint just for that reason.

Municipalities also conduct roving patrols hunting for impaired drivers. These officers make traffic stops for errant maneuvers such as putting a wheel over a lane line, or driving too slowly, and equipment failures such as a broken tail light, or expired registration.

Driving while slightly impaired

Arizona has one of the strictest DUI policies in the nation giving no tolerance to people who drive while impaired. A motorist who is only slightly impaired, and that’s less than the threshold blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, will be charged with a DUI under Arizona Revised Statute 28-1381(A)(1).

You may wonder exactly who determines what is “slightly” and you may not like the answer: It is the officer who makes the traffic stop based on the officer’s training and experience.
Slightly impaired can vary from person to person depending upon the individual’s body weight, gender, the rate at how quickly or how slowly the body’s metabolism absorbs and eliminates alcohol, a tolerance for alcohol from years of drinking, and how much time has passed between enjoying the Thanksgiving Day feast and abides and when the traffic stop happened.

Slightly impaired law also applies to illicit and prescription drugs. Smartphone sensors can determine if someone is high from marijuana, according to researchers at Rutgers Institute of Health, Heath Care Policy and Aging Research reporting in September 2021. Authorities do not yet have a device that detects drugs although other researchers are working on that.
Arizona law officers use blood and urine tests to determine the level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Arizona has a drug evaluation and classification program to identify a drug impaired driver. Officers are trained as drug recognition experts (DRE) in a three phase education program to evaluate if a person is drug impaired.

Actual physical control

A person does not need to be driving to be charged with a DUI with Arizona’s “actual physical control” law. An impaired person who falls asleep in a vehicle after the Thanksgiving Day feasting, with the ignition key in a pocket or purse, is legally in actual physical control of the vehicle. The key needs only to be within reach. It is easy to avoid this charge. Feeling drowsy, just place the ignition key in the trunk or on the top of a tire where it is out of reach and be assured you are legally parked.

Arizona’s DUI charges

DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, but if an aggravated element is involved such as having a child younger than 15 in the vehicle or causing injury or death, the charge is a life-changing felony. In addition, injury, death, and significant properly damage can be addressed in a civil lawsuit for damages.

The baseline DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious in the six classes of misdemeanors. Drivers who have a previous DUI conviction or test higher than 0.08 BAC face more harsh penalties. The next DUI level is more than 0.08 but less than 0.15. More than 0.15 but less than 0.20 is an extreme DUI and super extreme is more than 0.20 BAC.

Misdemeanor DUI penalties

The penalties for a first Class 1 misdemeanor is serving time in county jail for a minimum of 10 days and up to a maximum of six months. But the 10 day sentence may be reduced to one day in custody.

The license to drive is suspended for 30 days and after that a restricted license can be issued to travel to work or school for 60 days.

Fines and surcharges total $1,250 for a first conviction and jump to $3,468 for a second DUI conviction.

Other expenses are if the judge orders the defendant to pay for and finish an alcohol screening, education and treatment program and renting an interlock ignition device that prevents the engine from starting if a breathalyzer detects alcohol. Serving time in a community service program also can be court ordered.

Common DUI defenses

An arrest for impaired driving is not necessarily a conviction. Several DUI defenses are available depending, of course, on the facts of the case which can be unique.

Paramount of all, the state must prove its case beyond a “reasonable doubt.”

These are the common DUI defenses:
  • The patrol officer did not have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop which are constitutionally necessary;
  • The officer did not administer one or more of the field sobriety tests property or failed to inquire or consider the detainee’s physical condition which could have prevented the proper execution of the officer’s instructions;
  • The officer did not at the moment of an arrest recite the necessary Miranda Rights to remain silent or to have an attorney present at the interrogation;
  • The breathalyzer test result was flawed because the device was not calibrated correctly or had other issues producing an inaccurate result;
  • If blood was drawn, the sample became tainted because of improper storage or a human handling error;
  • The police report contained errors or did not include mitigating factors.


Aaron M. Black law for your DUI defense

I believe that good people can make an error in judgment during festive times such as Thanksgiving. They deserve a defense attorney who works aggressively and diligently to build the best possible defense. That is how I organize and conduct an independent investigation into the state’s evidence and the arresting officer’s conduct history.

Beyond my legal skill and experience, for your defense, you will be communicating directly with me at every stage of the case. A common complaint from defendants is that they did not have adequate contact with their defense attorney. That does not happen at Aaron M. Black Law. You will never be ushered off to an assistant.

Begin your defense promptly. Call 480-729-1683 at any time day or night, weekends or holidays, and I will respond promptly unless I am at trial or in court. Or use my online contact form.

I defend DUI charges in justice, municipal, state, and federal courts in and adjacent to 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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