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What Happens to First-Time DUI Offense in Arizona?

You can be arrested for a first-time DUI offense in Arizona if a police officer thinks you appear to be intoxicated while behind the wheel of a vehicle. The outcome of a first DUI in Arizona depends heavily on the circumstances of your arrest. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a DUI isn't a big deal because it's your first.

If you're facing Arizona DUI charges for the first time, call The Law Offices of Brandon White to speak with an Arizona first-time DUI attorney today. 

How Arizona Law Defines “Under the Influence”

Arizona law defines "under the influence" as being impaired to the degree that your ability to safely drive a car is affected. In fact, did you know that a police officer can arrest you for a first offense DUI in Arizona if you appear intoxicated and aren't driving safely — even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is under the legal limit of 0.08%?!

What Are the DUI Laws in Arizona?

If you're wondering, "What is the fine for first offense DUI in Arizona?" the answer is that it depends. Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, and the state categorizes DUIs according to severity. Arizona recognizes five types of DUI: standard/impaired to the slightest degree , extreme, super extreme, aggravated, and underage.


A standard first-time misdemeanor DUI in Arizona typically involves operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. However, exceeding the legal blood alcohol level isn't the only way to end up facing DUI charges. You can also be charged with a DUI if you're operating a vehicle under the influence of any substance and appear to be even slightly impaired. Police officers can make a DUI arrest if they feel you meet the legal criteria of being "impaired to the slightest degree".

Extreme DUI

An Arizona extreme DUI charge is similar to a standard charge, with one exception — the driver's BAC must be at 0.15% within two hours of driving. An extreme DUI AZ first offense still only brings misdemeanor charges.

Super Extreme DUI

As with an extreme DUI, a first super extreme DUI remains a misdemeanor. The only difference between the charges has to do with the driver's BAC. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.20% or higher within two hours of operating a vehicle results in super extreme DUI charges.

Aggravated DUI

An aggravated DUI is a point at which a first-time DUI moves from a misdemeanor to a felony. You can face an aggravated DUI conviction even if you have no prior DUIs on record. Situations that can lead to this felony DUI charge include driving under the influence with a revoked or suspended license, with a passenger younger than 15 years old, or while driving in the wrong direction on a highway.

Underage DUI

Drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 face underage DUI charges. Arizona law has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving, also referred to as the "not a drop" law. A driver under the age of 21 will face misdemeanor DUI charges for a BAC level over 0.00%, which means that no amount of detectable alcohol is permissible for a driver under 21. An underage DUI in Arizona first offense can become a felony if the driver meets the criteria for an aggravated DUI.


You Can Get an Arizona DUI without Actually Driving

In Arizona, you can be charged with driving under the influence even if you're not driving. Arizona DUI laws refer to being in "actual physical control" of a vehicle — and that encompasses far more than driving that vehicle on a road. Any actions that place an individual in control of a vehicle can lead to a DUI.

Examples of acts that can lead to DUI charges include:

  • Putting the keys in the ignition
  • Sitting in a car with the engine turned on
  • Opening or closing car windows
  • Turning on the car's heater or air conditioning
  • Turning on the headlights
  • Sitting in the driver's seat while in possession of the keys

Arizona's DUI laws make it very easy for police officers to make a DUI arrest — even if you have no intention of operating a vehicle.

How Do You Get a DUI in Arizona?

Given the strictness of Arizona DUI laws, it's easy to be charged with a DUI. If you're wondering, "What happens in a first-time DUI offense in Arizona?" knowing the basics can help you avoid further legal penalties if police approach you about driving under the influence.

A DUI usually begins as a traffic stop, whether you are driving or police notice you sitting in a parked car. An officer will first ask if you've used alcohol and then request that you complete a breath or field sobriety test. You're allowed to refuse a field sobriety test in Arizona. However, the consequences of refusing to take a breath test include having your driver's license suspended for a year.

What Does “Impaired to the Slightest Degree” Mean?

Part of why Arizona's DUI laws are so strict is because police are allowed to arrest drunk drivers if they appear to be "impaired to the slightest degree." This is a highly subjective criterion and can depend almost entirely on whether a police officer thinks a driver has had too much to drink based on how they were driving or performed on a sobriety test.

It's also important to note that BAC limits don't apply only while driving. A driver whose blood alcohol concentration reaches or exceeds the legal limit up to two hours after having operated a vehicle can be found guilty of DUI even if they did not appear intoxicated and their BAC was below the limit at the time they were driving.

What Is the Penalty for First-Time DUI in Arizona?

The penalties for first DUI in Arizona can range widely depending on the type of DUI you were charged with.

First-Time Standard DUI Offense

If you've never had a DUI on record before, you likely want to know what happens to first-time DUI offense in Arizona. If you are convicted of a standard misdemeanor DUI, criminal penalties include:

  • Up to 10 consecutive days in jail
  • Community service
  • A fine of up to $2,500
  • Mandatory driving course
  • Use of a certified ignition interlock device (CIID) for at least a year

You'll also face administrative penalties, including a driver's license suspension for up to 90 days. In some cases, the license suspension can be reduced to 30 days if you agree to undergo regular drug and alcohol screening. Your criminal defense attorney will have only a short period to fight for the reduced license suspension, so it's important to act promptly.

Extreme DUI First Offense

A first offense extreme DUI in Arizona brings punishments nearly identical to those experienced under a standard DUI, but with two key differences: larger fines and more days in jail.

An extreme DUI in Arizona first offense brings DUI penalties that include:

  • Up to 30 consecutive days in jail
  • Fines ranging from $2,500 to $3,000
  • Community service
  • Mandatory driving course
  • Certified ignition interlock device installed for at least a year
  • Driver's license suspension for up to 90 days

After an extreme DUI in AZ first offense, you can apply for a restricted permit to have your driving privileges restored after 30 days.

Super Extreme DUI First Offense

Super extreme DUI in AZ first offense penalties are more severe than standard and extreme DUI penalties. A conviction brings up to 45 days in jail. Fines and jail costs begin at $3,000. Other requirements after a super extreme DUI conviction may include drug and alcohol counseling, community service, and the use of an ignition interlock device for at least 18 months.

Aggravated DUI First Offense

The answer to "What is the penalty for first-time DUI in Arizona?" grows more complicated when you've been charged with an aggravated DUI. An aggravated DUI conviction is a felony. Aggravated DUI offenders face penalties that include:

  • Mandatory minimum of four months in jail
  • Driving privileges suspended for one year
  • Use of an ignition interlock device for one year
  • Fines beginning at $3,750
  • Alcohol or drug screening and counseling

Depending on the reason for the charges, aggravated DUI penalties will vary. When DUI cases lead to aggravated charges because a passenger younger than 15 was in the vehicle, penalties tend to align more closely with misdemeanor charges like extreme or super extreme DUI offenses.

Similarly, penalties for drivers convicted of aggravated DUIs can be harsher depending on certain circumstances, such as operating a commercial vehicle or having prior DUI offenses on record.

Underage DUI First Offense

If it's your Arizona first DUI, what happens when you're underage? Penalties can include:

  • Up to 10 days in jail
  • $1,600 in fines
  • Suspended license for up to 90 days

A driver charged with an underage DUI can be ordered to perform community service and undergo alcohol or drug screening. Loss of license can be reduced to 30 days if a restricted permit is approved.


Defenses to Arizona First-Time DUI Charges

Made up of former State Troopers and Former Prosecuting Attorneys, Our Team of experienced DUI defense attorneys knows how to pursue strong arguments to get DUI charges reduced or dropped entirely. Some of the most common DUI defenses are explained here.

Inadmissible Evidence

A defense based on inadmissible evidence may be available when arresting officers fail to collect evidence properly. Often, this defense rests on the argument that a driver's rights have been violated. In a DUI case, it may be related to how officers identify a drunk driver or collect evidence of intoxication: Arizona police officers cannot demand that a driver perform a breath test unless they have reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence.

You Were Not Intoxicated or Driving in an Unsafe Manner

In some DUI cases, BAC testing is not performed promptly. In others, a driver's intoxication may have been caused by another substance, like marijuana. Without adequate drug or alcohol screening, the prosecution may lack the evidence required to legally prove that a driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence and that intoxication was the cause of unsafe driving.

Problems with Chemical Testing

Chemical testing is often used in Arizona DUI cases to conclusively show that a driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, the chemical testing process is prone to error. If the police make a mistake while administering a test or the lab that processes the test makes an error, the evidence against a driver can be thrown out. Always have an experienced DUI attorney review your case for crucial details like lab errors.

Shelter Rule

The Arizona Shelter Rule was created to discourage drunk driving. This rule allows drivers to wait in their cars in parking lots or on the side of the road until they're able to drive safely. Since law enforcement in Arizona can arrest drivers for DUI even if they aren't driving, a court usually carefully considers the situation when the shelter rule is invoked as a defense.

Although there are never any guarantees as to outcomes in a criminal case, An experienced Arizona DUI attorney will review every aspect of your arrest and build the defense argument most likely to result in reduced or dropped charges.

Contact Our Arizona First Offense DUI Lawyers Today!

If you're facing charges for a DUI in Arizona, first offense, The Law Offices of Brandon White can help you fight back.

Our Arizona DUI lawyers can build a defense aimed at preventing jail time, criminal charges, and other unwanted consequences of a first offense DUI. However, successfully beating a DUI conviction requires working with a lawyer from the start of your case. The sooner you get in touch with a DUI defense attorney, the greater your chances of having your charges overturned.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with The Law Offices of Brandon White.

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