What Is the Court Process for Driving Under the Influence?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is illegal in all 50 states, and each state has a unique process for handling DUI cases. Arizona’s DUI laws enforce the federal blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of .08% for individual drivers and .04% for commercial drivers. If a police officer stops a driver suspected of DUI and administers a chemical test, the officer will likely arrest the driver for DUI if his or her BAC is above the acceptable limit. Even .081% may lead to a DUI arrest.

The punishments for a DUI violation vary based on several factors. The most important is the driver’s prior DUI history. Penalties increase for multiple offenses, especially if they happen within a short time of one another. In Arizona, first-time DUI offenders can expect penalties including jail time, fines, mandatory DUI assessment, court-ordered alcohol education classes, and driver’s license suspension.

It’s important to remember that Arizona has special punishments for an “extreme” first-time DUI offense. The court defines an extreme DUI offense as one involving a BAC level of .15% or more, indicating heavy intoxication. The minimum jail sentence for a first-time extreme DUI is 30 days, but the court may suspend 20 of those days under certain conditions. The offender will need to serve the first 10 days consecutively. Fines can total more than $2,700 for a first-time extreme DUI, and the minimum driver’s license suspension period is 90 days.

What Happens After a DUI Arrest in Arizona?

Following a DUI arrest, the police will take a suspect into custody and assign him or her a court date. The suspect may need to remain in custody until posting bail or until the court assigns a hearing date in extreme cases. For a typical DUI arrest, the suspect will undergo chemical testing and then the police will release him or her to a relative or friend for pickup. The suspect’s actions prior to, during, and after the arrest may influence his or her sentencing. For example, an extreme DUI violation that resulted in injuries will likely lead to more significant penalties than a .09% violation at a DUI checkpoint.

Anyone arrested for a DUI offense must request a license suspension hearing within 15 days of the arrest. During this hearing, the court will assess the violation and the offender’s case for reduced suspension and issue a ruling. If the suspect needs to drive for work or is otherwise financially dependent on his or her ability to drive, the court may issue a restricted license for the remainder of the suspension period. It’s vital for anyone in this situation to secure legal representation. A lawyer can help make a stronger case for reduced suspension. Upon release from the initial DUI arrest, the police will issue a temporary license valid until the license suspension hearing date.

During the DUI hearing, the defendant may enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. In some cases, the prosecution may offer a plea bargain with reduced sentencing under certain conditions. It is essential for anyone in this position to have legal representation. A defendant has rights through the entire DUI court process, and a DUI attorney can often offer invaluable advice that leads to quicker restoration of driving rights and reduced penalties.

A DUI court hearing may lead to several penalties and restrictions to a DUI offender’s driving rights, and the best way to manage these issues is to follow the court’s requirements to the letter. If the court mandates an alcohol abuse education course, do not miss a session unless you have a valid excuse and proof to back it up. Avoid any other traffic violations, as they may impact your driving rights if you drive with a restricted or temporary license. If you have questions about the court process for a DUI charge, your local DUI lawyer can advise you as to what to expect.