Arizona Court Affirms Motion to Dismiss in DUI Case, Siding with Defendant

In a recent DUI case coming out of an Arizona court, the state unsuccessfully argued that the defendant’s motion to dismiss should not have been affirmed. On appeal, the higher court confirmed that the defendant had no reasonable way of knowing that he was required to have an ignition interlock system installed on his vehicle.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was originally convicted in June 2012 of one count of driving under the influence and one count of possession of marijuana. In 2012, Arizona law included a provision that required DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their cars for one year upon having their licenses reinstated. By 2016, that provision had been changed, and it began to only apply to DUI convictions involving intoxicating liquor.

The defendant’s license was reinstated in 2017, one year after this relevant change to the law. Confusingly, the defendant’s Motor Vehicle Department record continued to state that he was required to install this ignition interlock device. In 2018, when he was stopped and charged with two counts of aggravated DUI, both charges were based on the fact that the defendant was intoxicated while he was required to have an ignition interlock device.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that it was unclear whether or not he was actually supposed to have an ignition interlock device in his car. The law had changed in 2016, and the statute was vague. At the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the prosecution maintained that it was appropriate to apply the law that existed prior to 2016 instead of the law that existed in 2018, thus the defendant should have had the device and was properly charged. The trial court ultimately agreed with the defendant and granted the motion to dismiss. The state promptly appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the court had to decide which version of Arizona law to apply: should they apply the law as it existed in 2012 when the defendant was originally convicted of a DUI and notified that he would have to install an ignition interlock device? Or should they apply the law as it existed in 2017 when the defendant’s license was reinstated and the law no longer applied to him?

The court concluded that it was only fair to apply the newer version of the law in question. According to the court, it would be unreasonable to apply an outdated statute to the defendant, and the correct approach was to interpret the law that was in effect at the time of the defendant’s offenses. Convicting the defendant of violating a law that was not on the books in 2018 would create a confusing and unfair standard for the defendant. Thus, said the court, the trial court’s ruling was correct, and the case indeed should have been dismissed.

Are You Facing DUI Charges in Arizona?

If you or a loved one are facing DUI charges in Arizona, give us a call at the Law Office of James E. Novak. We bring a strong understanding of Arizona case law to our practice so that we can offer you aggressive arguments and winning strategies that prioritize protecting your rights. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499. You can also send us a message online to have your questions answered.


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