What is a DUI

Alcohol-related deaths on American roadways still constitute a significant percentage of overall driving fatalities, despite notable improvements since the mid-eighties. According to statistics collected by the Century Council in 2019, and estimated 10,228 traffic casualties were connected to drunk driving, representing 31% of all traffic deaths, and averaging to about 28 Americans a day dying in part to drunk drivers.

One of the primary reasons these numbers are actually down from years prior is the serious and intense nature of DUI definitions, arrests, and punishments put into law by state governments in the last 20 years. What used to be a proverbial slap on the wrist for driving home with some liquor on one’s breath, being pulled over for Driving Under the Influence now carries legitimate punitive measures to one’s finances, freedom, and employment opportunities later on.

We’ll use Arizona as an example of the newfound intensity of DUI law, and how firmer classifications and penalties may be making drivers think twice about driving drunk:

What is a DUI?

A DUI constitutes driving or being “in actual physical control” of a vehicle under any of these conditions:

  • Being impaired “to the slightest degree” by any liquor, drug, vapor-releasing substance, or any combination of the three
  • Having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC: basically percentage of alcohol in one’s bloodstream) higher than .08, unless the driver has a Commercial Driver’s License (.04 for CDLs)
  • Containing any illegal drug or metabolite in one’s body (specifically listed in another section of law)

What happens in a first-offense DUI?

  • The driver will be jailed for a minimum of 24 hours, up to a maximum of 10 days
  • A fine of at least $1,250 will be imposed
  • Alcohol screening, mandatory educational classes, and treatments will be required
  • An assigned number of community service hours will need to be completed
  • A certified ignition interlock will need to be installed and used in any vehicle the driver operates for the following 12 months

How are the punishments expanded in a 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. DUI?

  • Driver’s License will be revoked for a year
  • Jailed for 90 days minimum
  • Fined $3,000 or more
  • Further alcohol screening, classes involving steeper fees, and extensive treatments
  • Increased number of community service hours
  • Another 12 months of only driving vehicle(s) with certified ignition interlock

What is an Extreme DUI?

An Extreme DUI constitutes the same requirements as a normal DUI, with the exception of the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content registering a .15 or higher, nearly double the legal limit. Punishments include:

  • 30+ consecutive days of jail (.20 BAC or higher receives 45 days, with zero eligibility for a potential suspended sentence)
  • $2,500 minimum fine
  • Alcohol screening, education, and treatment
  • Community service
  • Certified ignition interlock

What about multiple Extreme DUIs?

  • Revoked Driver’s License for 12 or more months
  • 120 day minimum jail time (.20 BAC or higher: 180 days, no suspended sentence)
  • $3,250 fine at least
  • Alcohol screening, added educational classes, and treatment
  • Increased community service hours
  • Certified ignition interlock

Finally, I’ve heard about an Aggravated DUI? What is that?

One or more of these three conditions qualify a driver for an Aggravated DUI:

  1. Three DUIs of any kind within a seven year period
  2. Committing a DUI on a revoked license or while suspended
  3. Have a minor 15 years or younger in vehicle when any DUI occurs

Punishments include:

  • Up to two years in Prison (not jail)
  • License revoked for three years
  • Fines, screenings, classes, and treatments as administered by the court
  • Certified ignition interlock for unspecified time if/when driving privileges are restored

These are shown as an example of the seriousness individual states are placing on DUI infractions, with the intent of further lowering the rate at which American citizens are killed by drunk drivers.

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