Under Arizona law, it’s unlawful for anyone under twenty-one to drive with ANY amount of alcohol in their system. As such, if you were under twenty-one when arrested for DUI, you likely face an additional charge for underage drinking and driving.
For this DUI charge, it doesn’t matter if you were impaired by alcohol; it also doesn’t matter what your BAC was. Underage DUI is a strict liability and zero-tolerance crime. The prosecutor must only establish that your body contained the slightest trace of alcohol. Any breath or blood test that establishes a positive alcohol reading is sufficient to charge and convict.
In most cases, underage DUI is charged in conjunction with other DUI offenses. At a minimum, your citation (or complaint) should list an additional charge for DUI to the Slightest Degree. And depending on the alleged BAC, you may have per se DUI charges: DUI above 0.08; DUI above 0.15 (Extreme); and DUI above 0.20 (Super Extreme). The higher the BAC allegation, the harsher the punishments. Lastly, if police suspected that you were under the influence of drugs, you’ll also be charged with drugged driving under A.R.S. § 28-1381(A)(3). You should review each of your DUI charges to understand your rights, options, and potential penalties.
Per A.R.S. §4-246(B), underage drinking and driving is a class 1 misdemeanor. As a class one misdemeanor, it carries up to 180 days in jail, $4,575 in fines and surcharges, and 3 years of probation. In addition, the Judge has discretion to order additional penalties like alcohol class, counseling, impact panels, community service, and restitution.
Underage DUI is different than other DUI offenses because there’s no mandatory jail. The judge may sentence you anywhere from 0 to 180 days. Unfortunately, this specific statute carries a two-year mandatory license suspension. This is an extremely harsh and inconvenient consequence compared to other DUI charges that carry 90-day suspensions.
Despite this harsh consequence, the Judge has discretion to order MVD to provide you with a special restricted license—also known as a SIIRDL. This restricted license allows you to drive to work and school during the suspension. With the restricted license, however, your car must have an ignition interlock installed. This requires paying an interlock company to install and maintain the device for two years.
Upon motion brought by your criminal defense attorney, the judge can order MVD to issue a special restricted driver’s license. This minimizes the negative impact of the two-year suspension by allowing you to drive to work and school.
This restricted ignition interlock license is not required by MVD; it’s also not credited towards any ignition interlock time required by a DUI conviction. Thus, in some cases, you could have an interlock on your car for more than two years.
When applying for the restricted license, you must provide the following to MVD: a court abstract reflecting that a restricted license was ordered by the judge; installation verification from an interlock company; completion of court-ordered alcohol treatment programs; and, a certificate of auto liability insurance known as SR22 insurance.
If you were 18, 19, or 20 at the time of arrest, MVD will usually suspend your driver’s license in the same manner as an adult. The exception is when you’re specifically convicted of Underage Drinking and Driving under A.R.S. §4-244(33). In such a case, pursuant to A.R.S. §28-3322(A), your license is immediately suspended for two years. Nevertheless, pursuant to §28-3322(B), the judge can order MVD to give you a restricted license. If you were arrested at 18, 19, or 20, it’s often beneficial to negotiate a plea that dismisses the underage DUI charge to avoid the two-year suspension.
Pursuant to A.R.S. §28-3320(A)(1), if you were under 18 on the incident date and later convicted of any DUI offense, your license is automatically suspended for two years. The judge can still order a special restricted driver’s license pursuant to §28-3320(B). Avoiding the two-year suspension in under 18 cases is more difficult because it requires an outright dismissal or reduction to reckless driving.
When defending against DUI, there are many defenses and negotiation strategies that are used by an experienced DUI lawyer. The facts of the case, the specific DUI charges, the Defendant’s age, the underlying investigation, alcohol and drug testing methods, court, judge, and assigned prosecutor, can all come into play.
There are many constitutional, statutory, and technical defenses. Whether a certain defense applies to your case depends on the facts. Some defenses may be strong and others not. It really depends on your unique situation. Regardless, it’s always important to look for police errors, shortcoming in the prosecutor’s case, and any constitutional defenses that might warrant dismissal.
With harsh license consequences in underage DUI cases, difficult decisions are involved in plea negotiations. Underage defendants often have strong feelings about license suspensions, restricted licenses, jail time, and financial consequences. These should all be considered in approaching the case. Depending on the facts and charges of your DUI, there can be benefits in going to trial versus seeking a plea with reduced charges and penalties.
Plea bargaining and charge reduction are areas that an experienced DUI lawyer would discuss with the defendant. Whether it’s possible depends on several factors that your criminal defense attorney would discuss with you. It’s not uncommon to reduce or dismiss charges to avoid mandatory penalties.