Earlier this month, an Arizona court of appeals had to decide how an early-release statute would apply to a defendant that could not actually obey the statute given her specific situation. In the case before the court, an individual had been convicted of extreme driving under the influence. The early-release statute in question says that if someone convicted of this crime installs an ignition interlock device in her/his car, that person can have their sentence lessened by 31 days. Because the defendant did not own a car, the court had to decide whether she was still eligible for early release.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with and convicted of extreme driving under the influence. When officers asked her to take a breath test on the road, her blood alcohol content was .20, significantly over the legal limit of .08. The high concentration of alcohol meant that the defendant was not only subject to penalties for driving under the influence, but also for a separate crime known as “extreme” driving under the influence.
In Arizona, if a person convicted of this crime installs an ignition interlock in her/his car, she or he can be released from jail 31 days ahead of schedule. Here, the defendant asked for early release from her probation, but the State argued she had not even finished her full time in jail, let alone completed the requirements of probation. The defendant stated that she should be released under the ignition interlock statute even though she had not technically complied – she did not own a car and thus could not have complied without purchasing an entirely new vehicle.
The lower court reduced the defendant’s sentence. The State promptly filed an appeal.
On appeal, the court considered the facts of the case to decide whether the defendant was rightfully released early. It would not make sense, said the court, that if someone does not own a car, she or he cannot be eligible for an early release. Here, the defendant’s inability to afford a car should not affect whether she can terminate her sentence under the ignition interlock statute.
The State argued with this position, saying that even if a defendant in this scenario does not own a car, she or he should have to install an interlock device on any car in general. The court disagreed with this position as well, concluding that it would be useless to have defendants install ignition interlock devices in random cars in order to comply with the statute.
The court thus determined that the defendant in this case was rightfully released early, even given her inability to install a device in a car.
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