For misdemeanor DUIs, it’s operating a motor vehicle while being impaired. There really are four main misdemeanor charges that you can get; the first is called “Impaired to the Slightest Degree.” This means that if you are driving a car and you are impaired at any level, whether it’s on alcohol or drugs, they can charge you with a DUI. This happens in a lot of cases where people will take prescription medications, like Ambien or Xanax. The drug is not necessarily illegal, but by taking that drug, they were impaired; and because they were impaired to the slightest degree, they are charged with a DUI.
That’s really the threshold level of a DUI in Arizona. As long as you’re impaired, they can charge you with the DUI. Then the definition changes a little bit from there going up. So then you have the legal limit DUI, which is the next level up; the legal limit is 0.08. So if you are driving a vehicle, while you are impaired by alcohol, at a level that’s 0.08 or higher, they can presume that you were impaired, and then they can move forward with the DUI.
The definition is similar for the next two levels, so then you’ve got an extreme DUI where the BAC reaches 0.15, and then you have the super extreme level where the BAC reaches 0.20 or above. Obviously, as the BAC goes up, the penalties can become more severe with each different tier.
What Are The Top Misconceptions About Being Arrested For A DUI In Arizona?
Probably the biggest misconception is that you have to complete the field sobriety tests and cooperate with the police officers. So when somebody is stopped for a DUI, the officer will ask them, “Have you been drinking?” The correct answer to that is, “I have been advised not to answer that question.” It’s not to say no, and it’s certainly not to say, “I just finished drinking at a bar somewhere” because that’s obviously going to incriminate you. From that point forward, the officer is going to begin their investigation, and they are going to run you through a series of field sobriety tests. The standard tests that we see are the Pen test, also called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, and that’s where they wave a pen in front of your face and watch your eyes. They’re looking for a jerking movement or an involuntary jerking of the eyes.
You don’t have to take that test; so when they ask you to perform that, you can refuse, and there aren’t any consequences to your license. That test is just going to give them more evidence to incriminate you. Another test that people take is the Walk and Turn test, where you have to walk a straight line, whether it’s real or imaginary, and then do a pivot at the end then walk back. You don’t have to take that test; the officer is just using it to incriminate you. The last test that we see most often is the One Leg Stand, where you put your hands to your side, raise one foot about 6 inches off the ground and then count to 30 or whatever the officer wants.
People don’t have to do any of these tests. These tests are done before the police have a sample of blood or a Breathalyzer, so they don’t know what your BAC is until they get those bodily samples. By doing these field sobriety tests, you are giving them evidence to incriminate you on the impaired to the slightest degree charge. So by doing these tests, they can say, “Well, your balance was off,” “Your perception was off,” or “Your understanding of time was off” to meet that impaired to the slightest degree charge. So if something happens down the road and there is a problem at the crime lab and the blood gets thrown out, they default back to those tests to incriminate you.
But nobody has to take those tests. The last thing that people don’t have to take is the portable breath test. The officers will have a handheld device that they’ll make you blow into on the side of the road, but you don’t have to do that. People will think, “Well, if I refuse the breath test, my license is going to get automatically suspended.” That’s a whole separate issue. But that breath test on the side of the road is not something that you have to take, along with those field sobriety tests. People think that if they are cooperative with the police and take these tests, the officer will let them go or reduce the charges.
Sometimes the officer will sort of hint that to get them to do these things. But it’s a huge misconception. None of those tests needs to be completed on the side of the road; and when people do that, they make their case more difficult to defend. So if I could tell everybody who is getting pulled over immediately for a DUI one thing, it would be to not take any of those tests and do not admit to drinking.
For more information on DUI Charges In Arizona, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (480) 400-1355 today.