Interviewer: At the same time they are charged with DUI criminally, is the driver’s license suspended by a non-criminal, administrative law proceeding?
Brian: Yes, under Arizona law, if you are suspected of driving under the influence, your license is going to be suspended for 90 days at least. What happens on occasion, and it just recently happened with one of my clients, the person did not expressly consent to doing the chemical test.
The chemical test in Arizona is the blood, breath or urine test, at the officer’s request. When someone does not expressly consent, officers consider that a refusal to do the test which is required under Arizona law. Their license is then automatically suspended for 12 months.
Now, my client ended up testing a very low blood alcohol level, and the case was never brought against her. The prosecutor decided there was not enough evidence for the case to go forward.
Still, my client had to deal with this 12-month suspension. That is something we are actually fighting in an appeal to the Superior Court, after doing the Motor Vehicle Division hearing.
Yes, your license gets suspended simply because you are suspected of driving under the influence. The one upside is: If someone is convicted of driving under the influence, the same 90-day suspension you get for being suspected of driving under the influence is the same 90-days suspension you would get if convicted of driving under the influence. This applies only if it is your first ever DUI.
Interviewer: Do people understand they are being charged with two different criminal offenses and this administrative offense attacking their license?
Brian: Well, the admin per se implied consent law is basically a way to get evidence against the person suspected of driving under the influence. It is not criminal punishment. It is not really considered a penalty.
It is a way to suspend a person’s license under suspicion of DUI. However, it is not considered punishment. It is not a crime. The admin per se implied consent is simply Arizona’s way of getting evidence to be used against you for a DUI offense. When someone is charged with a DUI, they tend to be charged with two counts.
However, there are additional ways they can be charged. On the misdemeanor side, they can be charged with: being impaired to the slightest degree; being above a 0.08; being above a 0.15 alcohol content, which is called an extreme DUI; as well as being above a 0.20 blood alcohol content, which is called a super extreme DUI. These are all misdemeanors.
These are all Class I misdemeanors, but Arizona is considered to have one of the harshest DUI penalties in the nation. On your first offense ever- if you have no prior felony convictions, no prior misdemeanor convictions, no prior DUI convictions- you have to serve at least one day in jail if you are convicted of DUI. In addition, it can go as high as six months in jail.