Read about Arizona DUI laws and what to do if you’re injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver
In Arizona, alcohol-related crashes accounted for 3.82% of all crashes and an astounding 31.09% of all fatal crashes in 2017.
If you’re involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you have the right to file a personal injury claim. This claim is separate from the criminal case that will likely be pursued by an Arizona prosecutor against the driver.
This article examines some of the laws concerning drunk driving in Arizona, the penalties for driving while intoxicated, and what steps should be taken if you’re involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver.
Legal alcohol limit for driving in Arizona
In Arizona, you will receive a DUI if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is above .08%. If you’re a commercial driver, you will receive a DUI if your BAC is above .04%.
If you’re under 21, Arizona has a “not-a-drop” law, which means you will be charged with a DUI if you’re under 21 and have any alcohol in your system.
Finally, if you have a BAC of 0.15 or higher, you will be subject to an enhanced penalty (discussed in detail below).
It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t actually have to be driving to receive a DUI. You only to be in “physical control” of a motor vehicle. Whether a driver is considered to be in physical control is determined by a judge or jury after considering a number of factors, including:
- Was the vehicle running?
- Was the ignition on?
- Where were the car keys located?
- Was the driver awake or asleep?
- Were the car’s headlights on or off?
- Was the vehicle stopped?
- Did the driver voluntarily pull off the road?
- What was the time of day?
- What were the weather conditions?
- Was the heat or air conditioner on?
- Were the windows up or down?
- Was there any explanation for the circumstances shown by the evidence?
In most cases, if a driver is found in their car in the middle of the road with the keys in the ignition and the lights turned on, the driver will be considered in physical control of the vehicle. On the other hand, if a person is found sleeping in their car in a parking lot with the keys in their pocket and the headlights turned off, the person is unlikely to be deemed in physical control of the vehicle.
|Arizona DUI Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits|
|“Per Se” BAC Limit||0.08%|
|Commercial Driver BAC Limit||0.04%|
|Enhanced Penalty BAC Limit||0.15%|
|Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit||0.00%|
Implied consent laws in Arizona
When you operate a motor vehicle in Arizona, you automatically give consent to the Arizona police to test your BAC level,so long as the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe you’re driving under the influence or that you’re under 21 and have consumed alcohol. This is known as the implied consent law.
Refusal to take a BAC test will result in an automatic 1 year suspension of your license if it’s your 1st offense. If it’s your 2nd or 3rd offense, your license will be suspended for 2 years.
Penalties for driving drunk
Arizona DUI penalties vary depending on the driver’s BAC and how many prior convictions the driver has. The following chart summarizes the range of penalties.
|DUI Penalties in Arizona|
|Penalty||1st Offense||2nd Offense||3rd Offense|
|Jail Time||24 hours to 10 days||30 - 90 days||4 months minimum|
|Fine||$250 minimum||$500 minimum||$750 minimum|
|License Suspension||90 - 360 days||1 year||1 year|
|Interlock Ignition Device Required||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Alcohol Screening, Education, or Treatment||Yes||Yes||Yes|
As you can see from the chart above, if you’re convicted of a DUI in Arizona (regardless of whether you’ve had a prior conviction or not), you’re required to equip your vehicle with an interlock ignition device in order to drive. This device requires that you submit a breath sample and will only allow your car to start if there’s no trace of alcohol in the sample. You will also be required to undergo some combination of alcohol screening/education/treatment.
Dram shop laws
Dram shop laws hold establishments that sell alcohol responsible for serving intoxicated patrons who later cause an accident.
Arizona’s dram shop law can be found in Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. The law states that an establishment will be liable for damages caused by an intoxicated patron if the following 3 conditions are met:
- The establishment sold alcohol to a patron who was “obviously intoxicated” or under the legal drinking age,
- The patron consumed the alcohol sold by the establishment, and
- The consumption of the alcohol was the cause of the injury, death, or property damage.
The term “obviously intoxicated” means intoxicated to “such an extent that a person’s physical faculties are substantially impaired and the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction that would have been obvious to a reasonable person.”
What to do if you’re hit by a drunk driver
If you’re hit by a drunk driver, you should call the police immediately. When the police arrive, be sure to explain that you suspect the other driver is intoxicated. Your statement may help the police officer establish the necessary reasonable grounds to administer a field sobriety test.
In addition to calling the police, be observant. Sometimes an intoxicated driver will attempt to hide alcohol bottles somewhere in the area or will make statements to others that could be used against them.
Once the authorities have been alerted and you make sure you're physically okay, contact a personal injury attorney. The driver will face jail time and fines, but you’ll need to hire your own attorney if you want to sue for damages stemming from the accident.
In Arizona, you may be able to recover economic damages (such as medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages), as well as noneconomic damages (such as pain and suffering). You also stand a chance of recovering punitive damages assuming you can prove that the driver who caused the accident was, in fact, intoxicated.
|Estimated Economic Loss Due to Alcohol Related Crashes in Arizona in 2017|
|Suspected Serious Injuries||$195,200,000|
|Suspected Minor Injuries||$106,000,000|
|Property Damage Only||$10,076,000|
If you’re still looking for DUI information and help, the following resources may prove useful:
- Help to fight underage drinking and driving by supporting SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
- Learn about strategies to prevent drunk driving from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Take a look at the Arizona DUI Statutes.
- Learn more about ignition interlock devices from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
- Learn how to reinstate your driver’s license after a suspension.
- Use our free online directory to locate an experienced drunk driving car attorney in Arizona.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.