Court Finds Proof of Defendant’s Knowledge of Interlock Requirement Was Required Element in Recent Arizona DUI Case

After an Arizona DUI conviction, drivers must often install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle before having their driving privileges reinstated. An ignition interlock is a small device installed near the steering column that requires a driver to blow into a tube before starting their vehicle. If there is any alcohol on the driver’s breath, the car will not start. Ignition interlock devices are designed to prevent those with a DUI conviction from getting behind the wheel after having anything to drink. In Arizona, for those required to install an interlock device on their vehicle, it is a crime to drive a vehicle without one.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case involving the question of whether the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew he was required to install an ignition interlock device of his vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that the prosecution must present proof that the defendant “knew or should have known an ignition-interlock restriction was in effect at the time of the offense.” Thus, the court vacated the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, in 2015, the defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI offense. As a part of the defendant’s sentence, he was required to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he drove once his license was reinstated. Initially, the defendant complied with the requirement. The Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), told the defendant that he could remove the device on June 1, 2017.

In March 2016, the defendant sold his vehicle. Before the sale, the defendant had the device removed from his vehicle. The MVC sent the defendant a notice indicating he was out of compliance. The letter stated that another interlock device “must be installed for one year from the date that proof is received unless a different time period is specified.” Again, the defendant complied, installing a device on his new vehicle. While the MVD’s internal documents reflected a November 17 expiration date, this was not provided to the defendant.

On November 10, 2017, police stopped the defendant for speeding. The defendant was not driving his own vehicle, and the car he was driving didn’t have an interlock device installed. Officers believed the defendant was intoxicated, and the defendant was charged with aggravated DUI for failing to have a device installed.

At trial, the defendant asked the court to instruct the jury that it needed to find he knew or should have known he was subject to the interlock requirement. The court rejected the defendant’s request, and he was convicted.

The defendant appealed, and the court found in his favor. The court explained that, while it may be difficult for a defendant to rebut evidence that they knew or should have known they were required to install an interlock device, it is an element of the offense. Thus, the prosecution must establish evidence of the defendant’s knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt. That being the case, the court reversed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s requested jury instruction and ordered a new trial.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Aggravated DUI Offense?

If you are facing an Arizona aggravated DUI offense, the Law Office of James E. Novak is here to help. With decades of hands-on experience fighting all types of Maricopa County DUI offenses, Attorney Novak has what it takes to defend you against the allegations you face. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, give the Law Office of James E. Novak a call at 480-413-1499 today.

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