I Got a DUI While Visiting Arizona From Out of State. What Should I Do?

by Craig Orent on Jul. 15, 2020

Criminal Criminal  DUI-DWI 

Summary: This article discusses the steps you should take if you are accused of driving under the influence in Arizona.

Arizona is a great place to visit, especially during the winter. As you might expect, many out-of-state visitors flock to the Grand Canyon State for its picturesque landscapes and warm weather. 


Some choose to come by car, which makes them subject to traffic citations while they are here. A small number of travelers even get arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), which is a serious offense in Arizona.


Now, while each state has its own motor vehicle licensing regulations, you are not off the hook for DUIs in Arizona simply by being an out-of-state driver. For that reason, it’s best to contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you are taken into custody.  


Arizona Impaired Driving Laws

Note that in Arizona a DUI is referred to as “impaired driving.” If you are 21-years-old or older, you are subject to a DUI if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is found to be above 0.08%. Keep in mind that commercial vehicle drivers are in violation if their BAC is greater than 0.04%. If you are under 21, you are breaking the law if you have any amount of alcohol in your system. 


Under state law, any substance that impairs a person to the “slightest degree” would be punishable with a DUI, including drug intoxication. Further, it is a violation of the law if any “dangerous drugs” are found in your system. This is true even if you weren’t under the influence at the time. Drugs specifically listed in the statute include marijuana, methamphetamines, and any prescription drugs without a valid prescription. 


Penalties for DUI Charges in Arizona

With that in mind, the penalties for a DUI offense in Arizona depend largely on whether you have any prior DUI convictions on your record. For a first offense, you face a minimum of 24 hours in jail, up to a maximum of 10 days. You also are subject to a base fine of $250, and you may have your license suspended for between 90 to 360 days. 


For a second offense, the minimum jail sentence increases to 30 days, up to a maximum of 90 days. The base fine goes up to $500, and you are subject to having your license suspended for a full year. For a third offense, in addition to the 12-month license suspension, your jail time is set at a minimum of 4 months, along with a base fine of $750.


Bear in mind that following any DUI conviction in Arizona, an ignition interlocking system will be installed in your vehicle. This is true regardless of how many offenses you have on your record. Further, note that if you are arrested for a DUI while your license is suspended or revoked you may be charged with Aggravated DUI and face additional penalties.


Will My Out of State License Be Suspended?

Now, if you are licensed in another state, Arizona does not have the power to suspend your license in that state. However, your privileges to drive within Arizona borders can be taken away. Further, many states are part of what is known as the “Driver License Compact.” This is an agreement between states to share information regarding license suspensions and traffic violations.


Most states are part of the compact, including Arizona. However, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin are not. If your home state falls within the compact, Arizona has the authority to forward DUI offense records to that state’s motor vehicle bureau. This could result in additional penalties being assessed against you in the state where you live. 


Do I Have to Return to Arizona for Court?

In most cases, if you are arrested for a DUI in Arizona, you will need to return to defend your charges. Keep in mind that if you fail to show up for court, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Note that just because you live out-of-state you cannot evade an arrest warrant. States have procedures in place to make sure you are found and brought back to Arizona. 


Further, you are generally required to serve out any sentence in the state where the violation occurred. However, there are some exceptions to this rule that you may be able to pursue. One option would be to transfer your sentence to your home state. However, the court is not required to grant you this type of flexibility. For that reason, it’s important to have an attorney on your side that can help you navigate this complicated process. 


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