Years of intense effort to criminalize drunk driving in Arizona have led to it having some of the country’s strictest related laws. Arizona recognizes driving under the influence (DUI) as a violent crime that comes with severe penalties, including thousands of dollars in fines and mandatory jail time. Furthermore, drivers in Arizona can get DUIs for simply being in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated – even if the vehicle is off and not in motion.
What Does it Mean to Be in Physical Control of a Vehicle?
Arizona’s drunk driving law, Arizona Revised Statute 28-1381, states that it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, drug or substance. If the substance impairs the person to even the slightest degree, he or she can be guilty of the crime of driving under the influence. While technically the term DUI includes the word “driving,” someone can commit this crime in Arizona without the actual task of driving involved. In Arizona, it is enough to be in physical control of a vehicle.
Being in physical control of a vehicle means having the ability to operate the motor vehicle. The judge and jury during a DUI case will look at whether the person was in the driver’s seat, passenger seat or backseat at the time of the arrest, as well as whether the person was asleep or awake. Where the ignition key was located can also make a difference. It is more likely for a judge to rule that a person was in physical control of a vehicle if he or she was sitting in the driver’s seat and the key was in the ignition. However, every case is different.
Consequences of Being in Physical Control of a Vehicle While Under the Influence
Being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance can result in a DUI conviction in Arizona. The penalties can match that of actually driving the vehicle under the influence. If a chemical test shows your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher, you will automatically lose your driving privileges. In addition, you will spend at least 10 days in jail and pay a fine of at least $1,250 for your first DUI offense. If this is not your first DUI, you will spend 90 days in jail and pay $3,000 in fines. After any DUI conviction in Arizona, you will also be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. The penalties will increase for an extreme or aggravated DUI.
Can You Be Charged With a DUI If You’re Not Driving?
In Arizona, prosecutors can charge you with a DUI even if you were not driving at the time of your arrest. It is enough to be in physical control of a motor vehicle to commit this crime under state law. The point of this law is to stop drunk driving before it occurs. Arizona penalizes a person for even the possibility of him or her drinking and driving.
If you are facing a DUI charge for being in physical control of a vehicle, you may have a defense to combat the charges. Arizona law provides the sleeping-it-off defense, for example. In this case, you may be able to avoid a DUI charge by establishing that you were only using your car to sleep off your intoxication and were not planning on actually driving the vehicle. If a jury believes you posed a threat to the public as an intoxicated person sleeping in your car, you may still receive a DUI conviction.
Contact a DUI defense attorney in Glendale if you are facing a DUI for being in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. A defense attorney can explore all of your legal options. Your lawyer can help you avoid the worst penalties for DUI in Arizona or avoid a conviction altogether, depending on the circumstances. Your lawyer will take steps such as refuting evidence against you and going to trial on your behalf. Contact a lawyer right away for your best chances at a successful DUI defense.