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Operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a very serious crime in Arizona. Most DUI arrests in the state result in a misdemeanor conviction, with harsh consequences even for first-time offenders.
While any type of DUI carries strict penalties, aggravating factors can elevate your offense to a felony crime. Felony DUI (also called aggravated DUI) sentencing may carry longer terms of imprisonment and license suspension, plus higher fines. If you’re facing a felony DUI charge, it’s imperative that you seek legal assistance from a criminal defense attorney. They can help you explore your best options for a reduced sentence.
According to Arizona law, having previous convictions for driving impaired can count as an aggravating factor. You may receive a felony DUI charge if you’ve had three DUIs within the previous 7-year period. In addition, if you’re caught driving under the influence with a passenger who is younger than 15, you may face felony DUI charges.
If you’re arrested for a DUI while driving on a refused, revoked, cancelled, suspended, or otherwise restricted license, you may receive a felony DUI charge. DUI incidents that lead to injuries or death are treated extremely seriously by state law. As felony crimes, these charges often come with years of prison time and other harsh consequences.
Felony DUI in the state comes with a minimum prison term of 4 months, which cannot be waived. You may have to fulfill substance abuse testing, which can cost hundreds. With an aggravated DUI conviction, you’ll lose your right to drive for 3 years. You’ll also have to install an Ignition Interlock Device in your car for 2 years, which usually costs at least $2,000.
As an aggravated DUI offender, you could lose your professional license to practice law or medicine. If you’re a university student, you may lose your scholarship or have a hard time securing financial aid. Your school may also require you to attend additional rehabilitation for drugs or alcohol. With a felony DUI conviction, you will no longer be allowed to own a gun or vote.
SR-22 Requirements for DUI Charges
Aggravated DUI offenders must file an SR-22 certification with the state. This form verifies that you’re carrying the minimum required amount of auto insurance. Under SR-22 rules, your insurance agency is letting the state know that you have active coverage and are financial responsible for accident-related costs. If you don’t maintain your insurance, the agency will let the state know.
You can obtain an SR-22 certification from your insurance agency after you buy a policy. If you already have a policy, you might be able to add the SR-22 to it. If you’re uninsured, or your insurance agency can’t file the form for you, you must buy a new car insurance policy.
If a police officer pulls you over and suspects you’ve been driving under the influence, you don’t have to do a field sobriety test. However, you’re required to fulfill blood or breathalyzer tests according to Arizona’s implied consent laws. Under state law, when you get a license to drive, you’ve given implied (rather than express) consent to fulfill alcohol testing if you’re pulled over on suspicion of DUI. In Arizona, refusing to consent to an alcohol test is a serious crime.
Refusing to submit such a test could lead to an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 1 to 2 years. To get your license back, you’ll have to take additional screening. By violating Arizona’s implied consent laws, you might be ordered to take DUI classes and install an Ignition Interlock Device in your car.
If you’ve received a felony DUI charge in Arizona, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your professional opportunities, financial situation, and even social life may be under threat. There’s too much at stake to take chances on this. Your attorney can review your case and look for grounds for challenging the charges.
Potential defenses may involve questioning whether the police officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over and probable cause to arrest you. Your attorney can question the validity of the sobriety test administered, look for errors in blood testing, and check to make sure the officer upheld your rights. While the state tends to treat repeat DUI offenses more harshly than first-time charges, your attorney could help you pursue a reduced sentence.
Some states allow you to expunge (remove) criminal charges from your record. In Arizona, however, you don’t have this option unless you’re under 18. Adults in the state can request to have their conviction “set aside,” which restores the rights that you lost after getting a felony DUI. Keep in mind that setting aside your conviction doesn’t take the crime off your record, and it still remains visible on background checks.
To have your felony DUI offense set aside, you’ll have to pay all related fines and fees in full, fulfill your probation terms, and complete your jail sentence. If the state ordered you to take classes or install an Ignition Interlock Device, you must meet their requirements before you’re eligible for a set aside. Keep records of your actions to prove that you’ve complied with the terms of your sentence. Your lawyer may need to use these documents to build your case.
While it’s possible to represent yourself in a DUI case, it’s not recommended. If you’ve been accused of felony DUI in Arizona, the steps you take next are very important. With your future at stake, hiring a lawyer could make all the difference for the outcome of your case. They could help you get your charges reduced or request to have your record set aside. Make sure you work with a skilled criminal defense attorney who knows how to protect your rights.