Does Arizona have the strictest DUI laws?

Over the years, Arizona DUI laws have become increasingly strict. As the state legislators have passed ever-stricter laws, the moves have reportedly pushed Arizona into the top spot for drunk-driving strictness. According to a report on WalletHub, Arizona ranked as the most strict of all states in the country for its drunk driving laws. The report can be found here:

Why the ranking is the highest and whether it is deserved

In Arizona, the penalty for a first-time drunk-driving offense brings a minimum mandatory jail sentence of 10 days. Arizona has the longest mandatory jail sentence of any state in the nation. However, the ranking, based on that minimum sentence, may not be completely justified. Under the state’s law, judges may reduce the mandatory sentences to one day in jail as long as the defendants complete an alcohol or drug screening ordered by the court. Alternatively, people may complete similarly ordered treatment or education programs. According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Alberto Gutier, most people have served the single day courts often order by the time they appear for their arraignment in court.

Second and third offenses in Arizona

After the second conviction for drunk driving in Arizona, people may be ordered to serve a minimum 90-day term in jail. While this is the third strictest treatment of second offenses in the country, Gutier stated that the minimum mandatory sentence upon the second conviction is allowed to be reduced to 30 days in jail. Third offenses in Arizona are prosecuted as felony offenses, which places the state in that category’s top 10.

Fines and Arizona’s rank

The fines for a first- or second-offense drunk driving conviction appear deceivingly low. The fines for the first offense can be a minimum of $1,500 and for the second conviction is a $2,500 minimum. These fine amounts are misleading, however. Under the law, Arizona adds a number of additional surcharges, including for such things as public campaign financing, judicial training and others. When added together, the surcharges significantly increase the amount of the assessed minimum fines. Learn more about punishments for first offense DUI here.

Ignition interlock devices and Arizona’s rank

Another law that drove up Arizona to the first rank for strictness is the state’s requirement that first-time drunk-driving convictions lead to the imposition of mandatory ignition interlock devices. These devices are attached to the dashboard of the vehicle and are connected to the starter as well. When a person gets into the vehicle, he or she must blow into the device. The car will not start unless the person blows into it. If any alcohol registers on the ignition interlock device, the car’s engine will not start.

Impounding of vehicles and Arizona’s rank

Yet another law in the state requires that police impound vehicles of people who are arrested for drunk driving. This requirement serves to propel Arizona’s rank as the strictest state for drunk-driving laws upwards. Gutier states that the rankings from WalletHub demonstrate that the laws in Arizona are already strict enough. He believes that the state should concentrate more on enforcing the laws that are already on the books rather than imposing more.

Gutier believes that Arizona has made significant progress with increasing enforcement of its drunk driving laws in the past few years. An increasing number of law enforcement officers are on the roads and highways, conducting more traffic stops than in the past. There are also simultaneous public campaigns that have been put into place. One example Gutier gave is the “know your limits” campaign. This is a postcard that people can refer to. It tells them how many drinks they can have before they reach the limit of 0.08 percent for blood alcohol content. The cards also list the penalties people can face if they are caught and convicted. The current emphasis, according to Gutier, is to convince people to get designated drivers when they want to go out.

As a result of the increased enforcement of Arizona’s laws and the public campaigns, arrests for drunk driving offenses have been falling. In 2012, around 32,000 people were arrested for drunk driving. In 2013, that number had fallen to 30,000. In 2014, the number of arrests fell further still to 29,000. At the same time, there was not a corresponding decrease in drunk-driving patrols by police.

Insurance premiums and Arizona’s rank

A final factor in Arizona’s rank in the top spot for its strict treatment of drunk driving is the cost of insurance. In Arizona, those who are convicted of driving under the influence have average costs in their insurance premiums rise by 37 percent, which is among the top 15 states in the nation for post-conviction insurance increases.

Even if Arizona’s rank may not be completely deserved, the potential DUI penalties are still severe. People who are facing such charges may want to call the Law Offices of David Michael Cantor for help. They have helped defend over 2,500 dui cases in the state of Arizona.


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