Phoenix Misdemeanor DUI vs Aggravated DUI

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Difference Between Misdemeanor and Aggravated DUI

If you’re pulled over and investigated for driving under the influence, you must take a blood alcohol concentration or drug content (BADC) test, such as a Breathalyzer or a blood or urine test. You may be arrested for a DUI if your BADC results are above the legal limit for alcohol or if there is any concentration of illicit drugs, including marijuana.

Based on your criminal record and the circumstances of the arrest, you may face either a misdemeanor DUI or aggravated DUI. Knowing the differences between these two charges helps you stay informed during your DUI case.

This article can give you an idea of what to expect from the legal process and help you work more efficiently with your criminal defense lawyer. If you hire legal representation, your Phoenix DUI attorney can collect evidence, build a defense strategy, and work to reduce or drop your charges.

What Is a Misdemeanor DUI?

A misdemeanor refers to minor criminal offenses. However, Arizona does not treat a DUI as a minor driving violation—in fact, law enforcement and the courts take DUIs seriously.

The classifications of misdemeanor DUIs in Arizona include:

  • DUI: BAC reading between 0.08 and 0.149
  • Extreme DUI: BAC reading between 0.15 and 0.199
  • Super Extreme DUI: BAC reading over 0.20
  • Drugged DUI: First-time or subsequent offense for driving while under the influence of drugs based on a drug concentration test

Even if you are facing little jail time, say 10 days in jail, a criminal defense lawyer can help ensure you receive fair treatment during your case.

What Is an Aggravated DUI?

An aggravated DUI is a felony charge for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when:

  • The driver’s license is suspended or revoked.
  • The driver was under the influence while using an ignition interlock device (IID).
  • The driver refused to submit to a Breathalyzer or other BADC test while being forced to use an IID to operate a vehicle.
  • It is the driver’s third DUI in seven years.
  • There was a passenger 15 years or younger in the car at the time of the arrest.
  • The driver was driving the wrong way.

In general, an aggravated DUI provides more severe punishment for repeat offenders. Someone whose actions while driving under the influence had the potential to put many lives, including their own, at risk could also have a misdemeanor charge turned into a felony aggravated DUI charge.

However, in some cases, a first-time offender whose first DUI is an aggravated DUI may get a misdemeanor charge and lesser penalties. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand how charges and sentencing guidelines may apply in your case, while fighting for a fair outcome.

An Overview of DUI Penalties in Arizona

Depending on your history of DUIs and the circumstances of this specific incident, you could face penalties for a DUI, such as:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Probation
  • Forced use of an IID to operate a vehicle
  • Limited operation of a vehicle
  • Temporary suspension of your license
  • Revoked license
  • Completion of alcohol counseling and/or traffic survival school
  • Fines
  • Community service

The type and severity of penalties you may face begin with the results of your BACD test. The higher your BACD, the more severe the charges may be. In addition, you will be sentenced based on whether this is a subsequent DUI charge, meaning you’ve been charged with a DUI before.

Penalties can also vary based on the amount of time between your DUI charges. For example, if you receive a second DUI within 84 months, you’ll likely face harsher misdemeanor penalties. However, if you receive a second DUI after 85 months, you may only receive a penalty in line with a first offense. Third offenses within 84 months may get bumped to a felony charge for aggravated DUI.

Your criminal defense attorney can apply the sentencing guidelines for your misdemeanor to negotiate with the prosecution for a just sentence that matches your alleged offense. They can also use evidence and refute claims to ensure your fair treatment.

Misdemeanor DUI Penalties in Arizona

Since misdemeanor charges are not as severe as felonies, the penalties aren’t as severe either.

Without a DUI lawyer’s help, you may get a combination of:

  • Jail time or probation
  • Alcohol counseling or education
  • Mandatory community service
  • Fines

Misdemeanor DUI vs Aggravated DUIHowever, if you receive another DUI while completing court-ordered alcohol counseling, using a court-ordered IID (unless your DUI is drug-related), or otherwise serving the penalties from a previous DUI charge, you may face additional punishments. For subsequent offenses of a DUI, you may also have your license suspended, restricted, or revoked.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (AZDOT), here are the penalties for the different types of misdemeanor DUIs:


Below are sentencing guidelines for DUIs with a BAC of at least 0.08 but not higher than 0.149.

A first offense could result in:

  • A class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Serve up to 10 consecutive days in jail
  • Pay at least $1,250 in fines
  • Possibly complete community service
  • Complete a traffic survival school course
  • Complete alcohol or drug screening, education, or counseling
  • Use an IID for liquor-related offenses

A second, third, or subsequent offense means you could face:

  • A class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Serve at least 90 consecutive days in jail
  • Pay at least $3,000 in fines
  • Have your license revoked for at least 12 months
  • Use an IID
  • Potentially perform community service
  • Complete a traffic survival school course
  • Complete alcohol or drug screening, education, or counseling

Extreme DUI

For your first offense of an extreme DUI with a BAC level between 0.15 and 0.199, you must:

  • A class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Serve at least 30 consecutive days in jail
  • Pay at least $2,500 in fines
  • Use an IID in every vehicle you operate
  • Complete a traffic survivor school course
  • Potentially perform community service

The guidelines for a second extreme DUI offense are as follows:

  • A class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Serve at least 120 days in jail
  • Pay at least $3,250 in fines
  • Complete at least 30 hours of community service
  • Have your license revoked for at least one year
  • Potentially use an IID
  • Complete traffic survivor school

Super Extreme DUI

According to Arizona law, if your BAC comes back at 0.20 or higher, you could face the following penalties for a super extreme DUI for your first offense:

  • A class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Spend at least 45 consecutive days in jail
  • Pay at least $2,750 in fines and fees
  • Potentially perform community service
  • Use an IID
  • Complete a traffic survival school course

If you have a second DUI offense with a BAC of 0.20 or higher, you could face the following penalties:

  • A class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Serve no less than 180 days in jail
  • Serve at least 90 consecutive days in jail
  • Pay at least $3,750 in fees
  • Complete at least 30 hours of community service
  • Have your license revoked for at least one year
  • Potentially use an IID for over a year
  • Successfully complete a traffic survival school course

Aggravated DUI Penalties

Penalties for aggravated DUIs depend on the circumstances of the DUI.

As you can see below, some aggravated DUIs result in more severe felony charges:

  • Class 6 felony: This is for an aggravated DUI where there was a minor passenger in the car who was 15 years old or younger. You could face up to 2 years in jail.
  • Class 4 felony: This is for any other type of aggravated DUI charge. Prison time varies.

Drugged DUIs

A first-time drugged DUI charge generally comes with a misdemeanor charge and many of the same penalties as a first-offense DUI.

You may not face charges if you have a medical marijuana card from a licensed practitioner who is authorized to prescribe medical marijuana. However, the law also considers whether you used the drugs per your doctor’s orders.

For example, you may be able to drive after consuming a small amount of marijuana as prescribed by your doctor. On the other hand, if you consume more than the allotted amount based on your prescription and then drive, you may receive a misdemeanor charge for a drugged DUI.

Can You Avoid DUI Charges?

Yes. However, these options may be more available to first-time offenders.

One alternative for jail time or prison time is probation. First- and second-time offenders for DUIs and extreme DUIs may have the chance to get probation after completing a significant portion of their required sentence. That means you may get less time in jail than what the judge originally sentenced.

Another alternative for jail time is diversion programs, which aim to help people struggling with alcohol or drug use and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

Here are some of the DUI-related diversion programs available in Arizona:

  • Veterans’ Diversion Program: This program provides mental health counseling and other services to veterans who don’t have a previous record of crime or DUIs and are facing an aggravated DUI charge.
  • Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) Program: The DTAP program involves drug testing, counseling, treatment, and vocational services to help those with substance use disorder avoid jail or prison for a misdemeanor or felony charge, including DUIs.

While a judge may recommend those with first-offense DUI charges to go through a diversion program, a criminal defense attorney can provide evidence to demonstrate your character and contextualize the event. This effort can help you avoid criminal charges and get the help you need.

Possible Defenses in a DUI Case

Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony aggravated DUI charge, a criminal defense attorney can use a number of defenses to help you get the best possible outcome for your case.

Some of those defenses include:

  • Faulty Breathalyzer results: You may first have a BAC of 0.08. However, if you’re tested again within two hours of your operating the vehicle and your BAC is less than 0.08, you may not be considered under the influence of alcohol. This is especially critical if, within two hours, your BAC is 0.05 or less.
  • Violation of your right to counsel: The police likely questioned you when they pulled you over. Know that you have a right to speak to a lawyer. If you asked for a lawyer but were pressed by the police’s questioning, a criminal defense attorney can demonstrate this violation of your constitutional rights.
  • Lack of reasonable suspicion: If you were not driving erratically or dangerously, such as swerving out of your lane or speeding, the police may not have had reasonable suspicion to pull you over. A criminal defense lawyer may argue that the police pulled you over during an illegal stop and that the evidence of whether you were driving under the influence is no longer admissible.
  • Lack probable of cause for arrest: Maybe you passed the field sobriety tests, didn’t have any alcohol on your breath, and didn’t have any odor or evidence of drugs in your vehicle. If so, the police may not have had probable cause to arrest you.

These defenses are just some of the strategies a criminal defense lawyer can use to get a DUI charge reduced or dropped. Whether you face a misdemeanor DUI or an aggravated DUI, the goal of a criminal defense attorney is to make sure that law enforcement and the courts honor your rights and that you get justice.

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