Felony vs. Misdemeanor DUI in Arizona

Last Modified: February 1, 2024
By: Thomas HogleDecember 13, 2023 |
Felony vs. Misdemeanor DUI in Arizona

In Arizona, a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) can be a serious legal issue, and it's essential to understand the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor DUI. These two types of DUIs have different legal consequences and affect your life in various ways. A misdemeanor DUI is generally less severe than a felony. However, both can have significant impacts on your life.

Knowing the difference between these two types of DUIs is crucial, especially if you or someone you know is facing DUI charges in Arizona. At Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers, we specialize in criminal law. While a felony conviction can be devastating, a misdemeanor conviction following criminal prosecution can change your life forever. Whether you have been accused of misdemeanor violations or an aggravated DUI charge, you need a strong criminal defense lawyer in your corner.

Learn more about how a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated can impact your driver's license, insurance rates, and freedom. Then, contact our Arizona law firm to schedule a free case consultation.

Understanding the Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor DUI

In Arizona, the law distinguishes DUI offenses based on their severity. A misdemeanor DUI is a less serious offense, typically involving a first-time DUI with no aggravating factors. On the other hand, a felony DUI involves more severe circumstances, like repeat offenses or causing injury.

The penalties for misdemeanor and felony DUIs differ significantly. A misdemeanor might result in fines and a short jail sentence, while a felony can lead to more extended imprisonment and higher fines. Understanding these differences is vital to comprehending the potential consequences of a DUI charge in Arizona. Reach out to us if you have questions about your case.

Key Factors That Elevate a DUI to a Felony in Arizona

Key factors that elevate a DUI to a felony in Arizona

Several factors can elevate a DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony in Arizona. Some of the most important aspects to be considered include:

  • Repeat Offenses: If you have previous DUI convictions, your new DUI might be charged as a felony.
  • High BAC Levels: Extremely high blood alcohol content levels can result in felony charges. In Arizona, a BAC of 0.15 or higher is termed an extreme DUI. If the BAC is over 0.20, it is termed a super extreme DUI.
  • Causing Injury or Death: If the DUI results in an accident causing injury or death, it's likely to be a felony.
  • Driving with a Suspended License: Committing a DUI while your license is suspended can elevate the charge to a felony.
  • Having a Minor in the Vehicle: DUI with a minor passenger often leads to felony charges.

Remember, facing a felony DUI is a serious matter. It's essential to understand how these factors can affect your case.

Consequences of a Misdemeanor DUI in Arizona

A misdemeanor DUI in Arizona comes with its own set of consequences. Typically, these include fines, potential jail time, and the possibility of license suspension. The exact penalties depend on the specifics of your case, like your BAC level. For example, even a first-time DUI conviction could lead to 10 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,250. If the DUI is an extreme DUI, it could lead to 30 days in prison.

In addition, a misdemeanor DUI can impact your life in other ways. It might affect your job prospects and increase your insurance rates. Understanding these consequences helps you prepare for the outcomes of a misdemeanor DUI charge.

Legal Penalties for Felony DUI Charges in Arizona

Legal penalties for felony DUI charges in Arizona

Felony DUI charges in Arizona carry more severe penalties. A DUI is considered an aggravated DUI if it fulfills any of these criteria:

  • DUI while license is suspended, revoked, or canceled;
  • Third DUI in 84 months;
  • DUI while a person under 15 is in the vehicle; and
  • Refuses to submit a blood alcohol content test while under an ignition interlock device requirement.

This could lead to a prison sentence of two years and other penalties. Some of the other factors the court might consider include:

Mandatory Jail Time and Fines

A felony DUI conviction almost always results in jail time. The duration can vary based on factors like your prior record and the specifics of the incident. Fines for a felony DUI are also significantly higher than those for a misdemeanor.

In some cases, felony DUI convictions can lead to years in prison. The financial burden of the fines can also be substantial. Understanding these penalties is crucial if you're facing a felony DUI charge.

License Suspension and an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

A felony DUI often leads to a more extended period of license suspension. Your vehicle could be required to have an IID installed on it. This machine stops your car from starting if it detects alcohol on your breath.

These penalties affect your ability to drive and come with additional costs. The installation and maintenance of an IID is often expensive. It's essential to consider these factors when facing a felony DUI charge.

Long-Term Impacts on Criminal Record

A felony DUI conviction in Arizona stays on your criminal record. This can affect your job opportunities, housing options, and more. A felony is much more severe than a misdemeanor. It can alter many aspects of your life.

Understanding the long-term implications of a felony DUI is important. It's not just about the immediate legal consequences. It's about how it can affect your future.

How Prior Offenses Influence DUI Classification

In Arizona, your prior offenses play a significant role in how your DUI is classified. If you have previous DUI convictions, your new offense is more likely to be charged as a felony. The look-back period in Arizona is seven years, meaning any DUIs within that time frame count as prior offenses. For example, while a first offense, a simple DUI could lead to 10 days in jail, a second offense could lead to 90 days in prison and a fine of $3,000.

The more DUI convictions you have, the harsher the penalties become. Understanding how past offenses can impact your current DUI case is crucial. They can significantly change the outcome.

Impact of a DUI on Driving Privileges in Arizona

A DUI conviction in Arizona almost always affects your driving privileges. Even a misdemeanor DUI can result in a license suspension. For a felony DUI, the suspension is typically longer, and the reinstatement requirements are more stringent.

Losing your driving privileges can have a significant impact on your daily life. It can affect your ability to work and carry out everyday tasks. Understanding this impact helps you prepare for the changes a DUI conviction brings.

The Role of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in DUI Charges

The role of blood alcohol content (BAC) in DUI charges

Your BAC level at the time of the DUI stop plays a critical role in the charges you face.

BAC Levels and Legal Limits in Arizona

In Arizona, the legal limit for BAC is 0.08%. However, if your BAC is significantly higher, you might face more severe charges. Arizona also has laws against "extreme DUI" (BAC of 0.15% or higher) and "super extreme DUI" (BAC of 0.20% or higher).

Understanding the legal limits and how they affect your case is essential. The higher your BAC, the more severe the potential penalties.

How BAC Influences Charge Severity

Your BAC level can influence whether you're charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI. Higher BAC levels often lead to harsher charges and penalties, as listed above. This is because they indicate a higher level of impairment and risk.

Defending Against BAC-Based DUI Charges

Defending against DUI charges often involves challenging the BAC measurement. This can include questioning the accuracy of the breathalyzer test or the procedure used. Your defense strategy might also focus on other aspects of the stop and arrest.

Understanding the intricacies of BAC measurement and how it can be challenged in court is vital. It's an essential part of building a solid defense against DUI charges.

Strategies for Defending Against DUI Charges

Defending against a DUI charge in Arizona requires a strategic approach. A few strategies we may employ include:

  • Challenge the Traffic Stop: Argue that the initial stop was illegal.
  • Dispute the BAC Test Results: Question the breathalyzer's or blood test's accuracy.
  • Highlight Procedural Errors: Point out any mistakes made during the arrest process. You did not physically control the vehicle.
  • Present Mitigating Circumstances: Explain factors that might lessen the severity of the offense.
  • Seek Plea Bargains: Negotiate for reduced charges or alternative sentencing.

Each of these strategies requires a thorough understanding of Arizona DUI laws. A strong defense can significantly affect the outcome of your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

What distinguishes a misdemeanor DUI from a felony DUI in Arizona?

A misdemeanor DUI in Arizona typically involves a first-time offense with no aggravating factors, while a felony DUI involves more severe circumstances like repeat offenses or causing injury.

Can a first-time DUI be charged as a felony in Arizona?

Yes, a first-time DUI can be charged as a felony in Arizona if it involves aggravating factors such as causing serious injury or having a minor in the vehicle.

What are the long-term impacts of a felony DUI conviction in Arizona?

A felony DUI conviction in Arizona can lead to long-term impacts such as significant jail time, substantial fines, a long-term criminal record, and loss of certain civil rights.

Trust Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers for Your DUI Defense Lawyer

Trust Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you're facing DUI charges in Arizona, having an experienced defense lawyer on your side is crucial. Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers specialize in DUI cases and understand the nuances of Arizona's DUI laws. We provide personalized legal strategies to defend your rights and seek the best possible outcome for your case.

Our team knows how stressful and confusing facing DUI charges can be. We're committed to guiding you through every step of the legal process. We'll work tirelessly to protect your future and fight for your rights. Contact us today for a free case consultation.

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Thomas Hogle
Thomas Hogle is a Principal Attorney at Genesis Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyers, leads a dedicated legal team specializing in criminal defense and DUI cases, offering comprehensive and skilled representation to clients facing legal challenges.
21321 E Ocotillo Rd Suite 125, Queen Creek, AZ 85142

Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers - Peoria AZ Office

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