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.
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:
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.
An aggravated DUI is a felony charge for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when:
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.
Depending on your history of DUIs and the circumstances of this specific incident, you could face penalties for a DUI, such as:
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.
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:
However, 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 second, third, or subsequent offense means you could face:
For your first offense of an extreme DUI with a BAC level between 0.15 and 0.199, you must:
The guidelines for a second extreme DUI offense are as follows:
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:
If you have a second DUI offense with a BAC of 0.20 or higher, you could face the following 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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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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