Driving Under the Influence in Arizona

The state comes down hard on DUIs

DUI Checkpoint
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

If you are one of the unfortunate many drivers who have been stopped by law enforcement for driving under the influence, or DUI, the question is what happens next. Here's what to expect in the state of Arizona.

The Traffic Stop

The first thing that happens when you are stopped for a suspected DUI is that the officer will ask you for your license, registration, and insurance, just like any other traffic stop. The officer will note how you get those items. For example, impaired drivers often flip through their wallet and pass over their driver’s license several times before taking it out. More importantly, the officer will be on the lookout for the odor of alcohol. Breath mints or mouthwash will not mask this odor. The officer will also look for bloodshot or watery eyes and listen for slurred speech.

If the officer detects those clues, he will ask you whether you have been drinking; he only seeks confirmation of what he already suspects. Regardless of the answer, the officer will most likely ask you to get out of the car. In fact, if the officer detects the odor of alcohol, watery eyes, or other indications of intoxication, due diligence requires that he, at least, ask you to get out of the car. The officer will observe how you exit the vehicle since impaired drivers often (but not always) have trouble simply getting out of their vehicle.

Field Sobriety Test

The officer will conduct the infamous Field Sobriety Test, or FST. These are standardized tests that are said to be effective in detecting alcohol or drug-impaired drivers. Quite frankly, they are nothing more than coordination tests. There is no requirement in Arizona law that you have to submit to FSTs.

Being Arrested

After the FST portion, the subject is often placed under arrest. The officer will handcuff your hands behind your back. You then are either taken to the precinct or to a mobile DUI van for a breath test.

Once at the DUI processing site, the officer will ask you some questions. If the right to remain silent or the right to speak to an attorney is invoked, then all questioning must cease. In this phase, if no such right is invoked, the officer will ask questions from a pre-printed list. 

A breath test will be administered. Unlike the Field Sobriety Tests that are given before any arrest,  there is an Arizona requirement that everybody who gets behind the wheel of a car must submit to a breath test to determine alcohol and/or drug impairment. If you refuse the test, you will get an automatic 12-month suspension of your driver’s license regardless of whether or not you ultimately win your DUI case.

What Happens to Your License?

As mentioned above, if you refuse the test, your license will be suspended for 12 months regardless of whether or not you are actually convicted of the DUI. If you submit to the test and your blood alcohol concentration is greater than .08, in other words, fail the test and you will suffer a 12-month suspension.

Other Legal Consequences

If you are found guilty of DUI, you could find yourself in jail, and/or required to pay fines and complete an alcohol or drug addiction program, in addition to a suspension of your driver's license. Specific consequences depend on the severity of the level of DUI and other considerations.

Out-of-State Drivers

There is no material difference with regards to the DUI process or license suspension for people with out-of-state driver's licenses who are driving in Arizona. The long and short of it is that so long as you drive in Arizona you are subject to the Arizona law. You will have to go to court in Arizona.

With regard to the license suspension, your privilege to drive in Arizona will be suspended 15 days after the suspension notice. The Interstate Driver's License Compact requires that DUI suspension information is shared between states. Once that information is shared, it is up to the state in which you are licensed as to what consequences, if any, it would impose. Generally, there will be some type of reciprocal license consequence. So a license will most likely, though not definitely, be suspended by a home state as result of a DUI arrest or conviction in Arizona.