How did Mesa Police Officer Rick Van Galder only get 3 days jail for a Super Extreme DUI?

How did Mesa Police Officer Rick Van Galder only get 3 days jail for a Super Extreme DUI?

Many people are up in arms (rightfully so) over the fact that former Mesa Lieutenant Rick Van Galder, who was convicted of a super extreme DUI in Gilbert earlier this year, can be seen frolicking with the Scottsdale Police while he was supposed to be in custody (link to record of court disposition):

How did Mesa Police Officer Rick Van Galder only get 3 days jail for a Super Extreme DUI?, R&R Law Group

Screen capture courtesy of

This type of jail house fraternizing and free access to fast food lunches, time out of a cell, or visits from a spouse are not available to us poor everyday citizens. But this was not the only type of special treatment Van Galder expected as a result of being an officer. According to the Channel 12 news report, he also used his status as an officer to attempt to get out of the DUI despite being clearly intoxicated. He references seeing officers die and going so far as to say he has a tattoo of the thin blue line on his body. To their credit, the Gilbert police did not give him a break and did their jobs dutifully in protecting the public by taking him into custody.

But how did he only serve 3 days of jail despite having a blood alcohol level of .306, almost 4 times the legal limit?

It is not abnormal in this situation, and with some clever lawyering it can be accomplished without much difficulty.

Here is how it works.

Under the statute, when you are convicted on a super extreme DUI, as Van Galder was (court record), you are to serve 45 days of jail.

A person who is convicted of a violation of … this section shall be sentenced to serve not less than forty-five consecutive days in jail. See A.R.S. 28-1382(D)(1).

It seems 45 days of jail is pretty clear, however, looking at subsection (I), we see that a Judge can reduce the sentence down to 14 days if the person installs an interlock device:

If the person is convicted of a violation of subsection A, paragraph 2 of this section, the judge may suspend all but fourteen days of the sentence if the person equips any motor vehicle the person operates with a certified ignition interlock device for a period of twelve months.

So by installing an interlock device on his car, he saves himself from 31 days and is only left with 14 days remaining. How does he get down to 3 days? See A.R.S. 11-459 and A.R.S. 9-499.07. This allows the establishment of a home detention program, which may require alcohol monitoring while in the home. It requires:

the prisoner first serves a minimum of twenty per cent of the initial term of incarceration in jail before being placed under home detention or continuous alcohol monitoring.

Under this statute, courts have found that the initial jail term means the smaller number of jail, or in this case, the 14 days and not the 45 days. So, 20% of the initial 14 days = 2.8, or 3 days.

That is how Richard Van Galder only got 3 days of jail for being nearly 4 times over the legal limit. This is the absolute minimum that the Judge could impose on this officer. While some may think an officer of the law should be held to a higher standard, this Judge evidently did not.

About the Author: Robert Gruler

author infoRobert was admitted to the Arizona State Bar in 2013 and the California State Bar in 2015. Robert is also admitted in Federal Court in the District of Arizona and has being awarded the distinction of being in the Nations Top 1% of Attorneys awarded by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. Robert’s primary focus in criminal defense is DUI and allegation of driving while impaired. Robert believes a vigorous defense is essential to protecting all citizens’ rights and upholding the traditions embodied by the Bill of Rights. Robert was born in Arizona and attended Arizona State University and Brophy College Preparatory where he was regional champion and captain of the wrestling team.