Watch Where You Park after a Night Out Drinking in Phoenix

by Aaron M. Black • October 22, 2021

We have heard the advice, watch where you step. Now there is new advice, watch where you park, under a new Arizona law that became effective on Oct. 1.

This new law makes it illegal to partially obstruct a sidewalk or impede pedestrian use. It was already illegal to park on a sidewalk.

Those who drive home after a night of partying can wake up to find a citation on the windshield and discover they owe a fine of $250.

Van Blocking Sidewalk

Police now will ticket any vehicle partially blocking sidewalk access, including trailer hitches protruding from the back of a truck.

The new law requires that a sidewalk be clear sufficiently to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, which is generally five feet of clearance so people in wheelchairs can navigate the sidewalk instead of using the street to go around a car partially blocking their path.

Temporarily stopping on a sidewalk for loading and unloading, in emergencies, or when following the orders of police is still allowed.

Arizona Representative Jennifer Longdon (D-Phoenix) introduced the bill which passed in a 49-11 vote. Longdon was paralyzed from the chest down in a 2004 drive-by shooting and she is an advocate for those who have disabilities. Her aim is to further protect pedestrians.

Someone who has been drinking and then impeding pedestrians on sidewalks may be facing a DUI charge.

Driving while impaired

Motorists who park on a sidewalk while impaired by alcohol or drugs will be charged with a misdemeanor crime. If an aggravated factor is involved, such as backing into a pedestrian causing injury, the charge is a far more serious felony.

Arizona lawmakers have placed Arizona and its zero tolerance policy among the states with the harshest DUI laws. Although the legal limit for the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent, a driver can be arrested and convicted even if the BAC is well below the legal limit. This is Arizona’s “slightest degree” law.

‘Slightest degree’ explained

This law, Arizona Revised Statute §28-1381(A)(1) does not define what “slightest’ means and that is on purpose. Deciding what slightest means is up to the officer who makes the traffic stop. The prosecution will not be able to base its case on the BAC level, but it will have the arresting officer’s opinion backed by experience and training.

Law for making a traffic stop

The officer must have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired to make a traffic stop.

Probable cause is met if a driver crosses a lane line, makes a wide turn, a brake light is out, the vehicle’s registration is expired, or some other violation the officer has the legal right to make a traffic stop.

A reasonable suspicion is not as obvious. The U.S. Supreme Court defined reasonable suspicion as "the sort of common-sense conclusion about human behavior upon which practical people are entitled to rely." The justices also ruled that an officer must have more than an “unarticulated hunch.”

Further, the definition is that a reasonable person suspects that a crime is being committed, had already been committed or was about to be committed.

Actual physical control

A driver does not have to be driving to be arrested on a DUI charge under Arizona Revised Statute §28-1381. All that the law requires is for a person to be in actual physical control of a vehicle. This depends upon where the ignition key is. If it is in the ignition with the engine turned off, or if the ignition key is in the driver’s pocket, these are considered as actual physical control. A driver asleep in the back seat and the ignition key is placed on one of the tires does not constitute actual physical control.

Consequences of a misdemeanor DUI conviction

A DUI conviction for a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious in the misdemeanor range, is penalized by a maximum of six months in county jail and a minimum of 10 days. But it is possible to spend only one day in jail with the other nine days suspended. To be eligible for reduced jail time, the defendant needs to successfully complete an alcohol abuse class.

A judge can order the defendant to rent an ignition locking device (IID) and have it installed at the defendant’s expense for as long as one year, although the time can be reduced to six months. The ILD prevents the engine from starting if the machine detects any level of alcohol on the driver’s breath.

The license to drive can be suspended for 30 days and after that time, a restricted license can be issued for the defendant to travel to work or school.

Fines and surcharges can total $1,510 and insurance carriers likely will increase the cost of auto insurance. Beyond that, the defendant is required to have expensive SR-22 (safety responsibility) insurance which is proof that auto insurance is in force.

A period of probation can last for up to five years and the court may order the defendant to participate in a community service program.

In addition to all of these penalties, a misdemeanor DUI conviction becomes public record which may make it difficult to keep or get a job.

At the traffic stop

Your defense begins at the traffic stop. The Fifth Amendment of the constitution protects you from convicting yourself by answering the traffic officer’s leading questions. Anything you say to the officer becomes evidence. You also have the right to be represented by an attorney under the Sixth Amendment.

By law the officer must tell you of these rights at the moment of arrest. These are called Miranda rights stemming from an Arizona case. So my advice is to invoke them at the outset. Some people may find it difficult to stay silent but that is the best course.

The Phoenix police officer, or Maricopa County Sheriff’s deuputy, likely will want you to undergo a sobriety field test such as standing on one foot, walking a straight line and other tests to judge intoxication.

Common DUI defenses in Phoenix, Scottsdale, or other Arizona Cities & Town

Several common DUI defenses are available under Arizona law.
  • The officer did not have the required probable cause or reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop.
  • The instructions for taking the field sobriety were flawed.
  • Physical issues contributed to failing the field sobriety test.
  • The officer failed to recite the Miranda rights.
  • The breathalyzer test result was misleading because the machine was out of calibration.
  • A blood test, if performed, was tainted because the sample was mishandled or improperly stored.

Choosing Aaron M. Black Law

I know that good people can make a mistake, but that should not ruin a life. I work hard at challenging the state’s evidence and finding flaws in police procedures and errors or omissions in the police report by conducting an independent investigation.

I have extensive experience defending DUI charges always with the goal of getting the charge dismissed or at least reducing it to reckless driving.

I provide personalized service so you will always be talking directly to me, never an assistant.

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

I defend DUI cases 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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