DUI in Arizona: The Toughest Laws in the U.S.


JULY 1, 2020

Edited by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

SpringBoard Recovery was born from the passion and personal experience of its founders. We understand the real-world challenges of early recovery and are here to help and we are passionate about helping our clients lead balanced, healthy, and fulfilling lives.


When it comes to getting a DUI (driving under the influence) in Arizona, and playing what the state police there consider an illegal game of pure chance with other people’s lives, you’d better be prepared for the worst – they have the toughest sheriffs of any town in the U.S., and the toughest laws in the nation to back those sheriffs up.

Russian roulette is probably one of the best analogies you can use for DUI. Arizona, just like the rest of the U.S., has the right to consider it deadly. In 2018, across the nation, the horrifically high number of 10,511 people died from drunk-driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). DUI continues to be a serious problem across the U.S.

  • Each year, drunk driving costs every U.S. citizen $500

  • Every 50 minutes of each of those days, drunk driving takes a life

  • Every day, 29 people on average are killed by drunk drivers

Of course, not all of those who died were drunk-driving themselves – the vast majority were the “innocent,” as described by Arizona’s Maricopa County Coroner Bill Montgomery in his quote above.

So what about Arizona? According to the most recent data from the Arizona Department of Transportation, in 2017, there were exactly 1,000 fatalities from automobile crashes, with 27.8% of those fatalities (278) caused by DUI. This constitutes a 25% increase on 2013 fatal DUI crash numbers, regardless of the state’s tough laws on drunk-driving.

DUI in Arizona

In summary, if you get arrested in Arizona for DUI, following a positive breath analysis test of an alcohol concentration at 0.08% or more, expect to do time (yes, a mandatory jail term of 10 days for a first offense, regardless), and a hefty fine too.

Even if you refuse the test, they’ll stop you driving anyway – you will automatically lose your driving privilege for 12 months because of your refusal. Yes, a whole year. Regardless. Did we say the laws were tough?

Here’s exactly how tough…


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Arizona’s Tough DUI Laws Explained

Under Arizonan law, it is considered unlawful for anyone to drive or be in physical charge of a vehicle while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. An application for an Arizona driving license means that you give your consent, at any time in the future, for a blood alcohol concentration or drug content (BADC) test if you’re arrested for a DUI, known as the Implied Consent Law.

DUI Penalties

If a BADC test shows that your alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more, you lose your driving license there and then, and the level for a commercial vehicle is only 0.04%. Additionally,  you will be required to complete alcohol or drug screening before you can obtain a restricted permit or reinstate your driving privilege.

However, it’s important to know that the 0.08% level is not the actual limit. You can still incur the exact same penalties with a lower reading if still found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or if you are considered to be impaired by drugs. If you are under 21, your license may be suspended if there is any presence of alcohol whatsoever.

Refuse to take the test, or fail to complete any tests for an accurate reading of your alcohol concentration, you lose your license anyway – 12 months for a first refusal, and 24 months for a second refusal within 84 months.

And it doesn’t end there…

Arizona DUI law

First Offense:

  • Jailed for not less than 10 consecutive days

  • Fined not less than $1,250

  • Required to undergo alcohol screening/education/treatment

  • Equip any vehicle you drive with a certified ignition interlock device, and

  • Ordered to perform community service

Second & Subsequent Offenses:

  • Jailed for not less than 90 days

  • Fined not less than $3,000

  • License revoked for 12 months

  • Required to undergo alcohol screening/education/treatment

  • Equip any vehicle you drive with a certified ignition interlock device, and

  • Ordered to perform community service

Extreme DUI:

Applies to a person with an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher

  • First offense:

    • Jailed for not less than 30 consecutive days with no eligibility for probation or suspended sentence

    • Fined not less than $2,500

    • Required to undergo alcohol screening/education/treatment

    • Equip any vehicle you drive with a certified ignition interlock device, and

    • Ordered to perform community service

  • Second and subsequent offenses:

    • Jailed for not less than 120 days

    • Fined not less than $3,250

    • License will be revoked for 12 months

    • Required to undergo alcohol screening/education/treatment

    • Equip any vehicle you drive with a certified ignition interlock device, and

    • Ordered to perform community service

Aggravated DUI:

Applies to a person who:

  • Commits a DUI while suspended, revoked or canceled

  • Commits a third DUI in 84 months

  • Commits a DUI while a person under 15 is in the vehicle

  • Commits a DUI or refuses to submit a blood alcohol content test while under an ignition interlock device requirement:

    • Jailed for not more than two years

    • In addition to any other penalty required by law, license will be revoked for one year

    • Required to undergo alcohol screening/education/treatment

    • Equip any vehicle you drive with a certified ignition interlock device, and

    • Ordered to perform community service

What is a Certified Ignition Interlock Device?

A certified ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol testing instrument connected to the ignition and power system of the vehicle. The driver has to blow into the device before turning the ignition. If the driver’s alcohol level is above a certain level, the vehicle will not start.

If that isn’t proof enough, while driving the vehicle, the driver has to blow into the device at random intervals to ensure compliance – to keep driving, in other words.

DUI in Arizona jail

DUI in Arizona Could Mean Serious Jail Time

The bureau chief for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Vehicular Crimes Unit, Aaron Harder, has a team of 13 lawyers who work only felony DUI cases, and previously said when interviewed that he had seen certain offenders sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for multiple felony DUI charges. If found guilty of manslaughter charges for DUIs (resulting in death), some offenders have received 21 years’ jail time. According to Harder:

“A DUI is a homicide charge in progress.”

The Arizona Department of Transportation is prepared to try anything to get people to stop drunk-driving. For example, one Thanksgiving weekend, an overhead freeway sign changed it’s usual message of “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed” to “Drinking & Driving Go Together Like Peas & Guac,” a popular New York Times-inspired food recipe debate prominent at the time.

What You Should Do If You’re Arrested For DUI in Arizona

If you get arrested for DUI in the state of Arizona, expect to be punished as far as the law allows, and, as we have seen, it allows quite a lot. Here’s what you should do if this is the case:


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1. Create a Written Record of Your Arrest

As soon as you’re able, write down everything about your arrest, including what you did prior to being stopped initially. Remember, the police have their report. Try to include every single detail that you can remember, including:

  • Where you were earlier in the day

  • Exactly what you drank

  • What time you had your last drink

  • The speed you were driving when you were pulled over

  • Where you pulled over, and

  • Everything the officer said to you. and

  • Include photographs in your written record (as soon as you’re able, return to the scene and take photos from multiple locations)

2. Your Driver’s License

When you’re released, you’ll be given official paperwork. As it contains all the relevant information, you must read through this carefully. It will tell you:

  • 15 days after your arrest, you face an automatic 90-day license suspension. You can challenge this suspension if you want to by requesting an administrative hearing. Do this quickly as there is a short deadline.

  • If you refuse the chemical test at the DUI processing site, you automatically lose your license for 12 months. If you refuse, the officer will obtain a search warrant anyway. If it’s your second refusal in 84 months, you face a 24-month suspension of your license.

3. License Reinstatement: Part One

  • Initially, you need to complete alcohol screening through a Department of Health-approved facility, the screening consists of an interview (30 mins – 1 hour) with a behavioral health specialist who then makes their recommendations. Alcohol screening will assess the extent of your alcohol dependence or abuse, and will look at:

    • Your psychosocial history

    • Any changes in tolerance

    • Any prior arrests

    • Any withdrawal symptoms

    • Any personality changes when you’ve been drinking, and more

  • Then, you need to attend Traffic Survival School – required for violations the state deems particularly dangerous, eg. DUI or running a red light.

4. Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

If the court orders that you instal an IID, you must go to a state-authorized vendor for installation. This requirement begins within 30 days of your license reinstatement. You will need to pay a monthly charge for the device, too, and the cost of the IID is the responsibility of the driver.

5. License Reinstatement: Part Two

Obviously, the state does not automatically reinstate your driver’s license after an Arizona DUI conviction. You are usually required to submit clearance documents from the court and pay the application and reinstatement fees for the license.

Problem drinking addiction

Arizona DUI Conviction: The First Sign Of Something Worse?

For many people in Arizona (and indeed, across the country), a DUI conviction is the first real sign of something worse – you are no longer in control of your drinking. Family members, friends, work colleagues and others may have had a quiet word before the police finally pulled you over, but there is nothing like being officially labelled as someone not in control because of their alcohol consumption.

If alcohol or drug use has become a problem for you (and a DUI on your record is definitely a serious problem), you really need to look into getting professional help for your substance abuse. It may soon become an addiction, if left untreated – in fact, it may already be there.

If that’s the case, a DUI will only be the beginning of your problems, and that is as much a clear and present fact as the official number of total lives lost due to drunk-driving.

SpringBoard Recovery Can Help

SpringBoard Recovery, located in Scottsdale, AZ, just 10 miles from Phoenix, is one of the most effective drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers in Arizona. We take pride in our commitment to helping our clients overcome their battles with substance abuse.

We provide powerful and life-changing recovery programs, and accept patients from any part of Arizona or other surrounding areas as well. Our services are designed to help our clients achieve their personal goals in life, and become more productive and self-reliant individuals, finally free from their substance abuse problems.

By seeking treatment as soon as possible, you minimize the health risks of your alcohol addiction, including falling into the trap of thinking you’re ok to drive when you’re not.

Please don’t let substance abuse ruin your life. We can offer intensive care to patients who undergo rehab in our center, by evaluating each person individually, assessing their personal needs, and providing the right treatment for his or her recovery from addiction.


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/az_fy2018_ar_0.pdf
  3. Law Offices of Brian D. Sloan: https://arizdui.com/arizona-dui-defense/consequences-of-a-first-offense-dui-in-arizona/
  4. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/blood-alcohol-test#1
  5. ADOT: https://azdot.gov/motor-vehicles/driver-services/driver-improvement/driving-under-influence-dui
  6. ADOT: https://azdot.gov/motor-vehicles/driver-services/ignition-interlock/certified-ignition-interlock-ciid
  7. The Law Offices of John Phebus: https://www.crimeandinjurylaw.com/blog/2018/07/what-is-the-certified-ignition-interlock-program/
  8. STI DUI Online: https://stiduionline.com/product/16-hour-online-dui-course/
  9. Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners: https://azbbhe.us/node/3
  10. ADOT: https://azdot.gov/search/content/mvd%20driver%20services%20ignition%20interlock%20interlock%20manufacturers%20installers

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JULY 1, 2020

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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