As of September 2007, drivers convicted of a first time misdemeanor, “extreme” or “super extreme” DUI offense in the state of Arizona will have to install an ignition interlock device into their vehicle for a mandatory, minimum one year period.
Arizona reported the sixth highest number of alcohol related motor vehicle fatalities nationwide in 2006, and tough, punitive DUI laws were enacted in September 2007 to try and curtail the ever increasing number of DUI related accidents.
Ignition interlocks are breathalyser devices installed into vehicles and require the driver to blow into the device prior to, and while operating, the motor vehicle. The ignition interlock measures the driver’s BAC (blood alcohol content), and the driver’s vehicle ceases to operate if the ignition interlock detects a BAC that meets or exceeds a specific, pre-determined limit.
Legislation mandating ignition interlock installation is not new. Currently, six Canadian provinces and 43 American states have some type of interlock legislation in effect to deal with repeat DUI offenders.
Arizona has followed New Mexico in mandating ignition interlock installation for first time offenders, after the state of New Mexico reported a 12% drop in alcohol related motor vehicle fatalities, since its implementation of interlock legislation in 2005.
All convicted DUI drivers in Arizona, even first time offenders, must now install ignition interlock devices for a minimum year term, if the convicted driver’s BAC exceeds the legal limit of 0.08%. Prior to the 2007 legislation, ignition interlock installation in the state of Arizona was only obligatory in cases of repeat offenders.
Arizona’s new DUI laws function under a graduated system, with progressively harsher punishments for more serious offenders.
A first time misdemeanor DUI conviction with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.15% carries a minimum 24 hour jail term, and a $1250 fine. An “extreme” misdemeanor charge with a BAC between 0.15% to 0.19% carries a minimum 10 day jail term and $2000 fine.
Under the new legislation, a new category of “super extreme” offenders was also created. “Super extreme” offenders are impaired drivers convicted with a BAC of 0.20% or higher.
First time “super extreme” DUI offenders are handed a minimum 45 day jail term and $2750 fine, along with a 30 day vehicle impound.
And all first time offenders, regardless of category, also face a minimum 90 day licence suspension and court ordered ignition interlock installation, which must be in place for at least one year.
Penalties stiffen substantially for subsequent convictions. Depending on the category of the conviction, in addition to court ordered ignition interlock installation, repeat offenders convicted of intoxicated driving can also expect heavy fines, minimum 120 day jail sentences, lengthy vehicle impounds, and license suspension for one year or longer.
Proponents in favor of Arizona’s new DUI laws argue that the extremely strict measures will reduce DUI-related accidents and save lives, while critics cite the enormous costs associated with ignition interlock installation. Installing an interlock device costs between $100 to $200, plus an additional monthly maintenance of $70 to $100. All costs are assumed by the convicted driver.
Critics of Arizona’s new DUI laws also note that if the ignition interlock is set to a pre-determined limit of 0.03 or 0.04%, even if the driver blows below Arizona’s legal limit of 0.08%, his or her vehicle may still not start anyways. The device may thus prevent a driver who consumes a 4 oz glass of wine during dinner from operating his or her motor vehicle.
Ignition interlock devices are also known to produce false positives, and there is margin for error, as spicy food can be detected by the device’s alcohol sensors. Ignition interlock devices are also potentially embarrassing for individuals who use their vehicles for career-related purposes.
Under the new legislation, jail terms can be shortened for convicted drivers who attend alcohol screening and evaluations. For example, the jail term for a first “extreme” misdemeanor offense can be reduced from 10 days to just 1 day, upon completion of an alcohol and drug evaluation.
If you are charged with a DUI related offense under Arizona’s new laws, it is imperative that you exercise your right to speak to an attorney.