Arizona has among the toughest DUI laws in the country, even for a first-time DUI. Sometimes drivers are surprised to be pulled over or arrested because they’ve only had a couple of drinks, and didn’t believe they were impaired or driving in an unusual or suspicious manner. If you are arrested and charged with a first-time drunk driving offense, a skilled Phoenix DUI attorney can help you protect your legal rights and your future.First-Time DUI
There are several ways in which you could be charged with a first-time DUI. Under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 28-1381, you can be convicted if the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under the influence of alcohol, vapor, drugs, or a toxic substance that left you even slightly impaired. You can be convicted of a per se DUI if the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than .08. You can be convicted if the prosecutor can show beyond a reasonable doubt you have any drug set forth in A.R.S. section 13-3401 in your body. You can also be convicted if the prosecutor shows beyond a reasonable doubt you were driving a commercial vehicle and had a blood alcohol content greater than .04. In other words, you could be charged and convicted even if you didn’t consume enough alcohol to get to the .08 legal BAC limit.Penalties
A first-time DUI is not punished as harshly as subsequent offenses, but a conviction can have legal consequences far into the future (particularly if you have future offenses), and can also carry a significant social stigma. Usually a first-time DUI is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The prosecutor may pursue your first offense DUI with greater tenacity when there are certain conditions present, such as a minor in the car or an accident that caused injuries or death.
Penalties for a first-time DUI can include at least 10 days in a row in jail, a fine of $250, a community service requirement, payment to various funds, and required installation of an ignition interlock device. The 10 days in jail are mandated, but you may be able to get all but one day suspended if the court orders you to complete an alcohol abuse or drug abuse treatment program and you complete the program. Representation from an experienced attorney can result in these penalties being lighter or even get the charges dismissed in situations where, for example, the way evidence was obtained is challenged.Defenses
Criminal convictions following DUI arrests are not assured. There are defenses you may be able to raise depending on the circumstances. Like other crimes, a first-time DUI must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, the best defense is simply to raise reasonable doubt about one or more elements. For example, where a per se DUI is alleged, it might be possible to raise reasonable doubt about how the chemical test was performed to show that you did not have a .08 BAC beyond a reasonable doubt.
In other situations, a constitutional or procedural defense may be appropriate. In order to pull you over for a DUI, the police must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Although this suspicion can be related to a small thing like a failure to signal, the suspicion must be based on an articulable reason. It is not enough that the police had a hunch you were driving under the influence. If the police didn’t have the requisite reasonable suspicion to pull you over, it may be possible to get evidence obtained during the stop suppressed. Without evidence of intoxication or impairment, you may be able to secure a dismissal or plea deal.Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Serving Phoenix
If you are charged with a first-time DUI, a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can walk you through the legal process and help you assess your options. James E. Novak represents defendants charged with DUIs and other offenses throughout the Phoenix area, including in Scottsdale, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and across Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or via our online form.