How Exactly is DUI Defined in Arizona?

There are two basic elements to Driving Under the Influence or “DUI.” The first is being in “actual physical control” of a motorized vehicle. The second element is being “under the influence.” As we’ll point out, the legal descriptions of these elements can be a bit misleading.

What is Actual Physical Control?


In order to be convicted of DUI in Arizona, the State must always prove that you were in actual physical control of a motorized vehicle. This doesn’t necessarily mean “driving” as the title suggests. First off, you could be convicted of a DUI for being in control of a boat, which obviously wouldn’t require any driving. Secondly, and perhaps more surprising to people, if you are in a car, you don’t even have to be moving to be convicted of DUI. Actual physical control could be sitting in a parking lot with the car running and you in the driver’s seat. It could be sitting in the parking lot with the car not running but you have the keys in your hand or the keys are in the ignition. There is a lot of grey area once you start talking about actual physical control. If the keys are sitting on the floorboard and you are sleeping in the driver’s seat, are you in control? Those are the types of questions the jury would get to decide, and they are a major reason that having a persuasive attorney can make a huge difference in a DUI case.


The second element, “under the influence,” has two general categories: alcohol and drugs. There are two ways for the State to prove a regular alcohol DUI. Amongst the alcohol DUIs, there are four different types.

The first is the one that most people are familiar with. It is driving with alcohol in your system above a 0.08%. People know about that because it is the same in almost every state across the country. That 0.08% is the level above which you can be convicted of a DUI. In Arizona, there are also DUIs for driving above a 0.15% (called an “Extreme DUI”) and DUIs for driving above a 0.20% (called a “Super Extreme DUI”); there are additional consequences for those.

The other alcohol DUI that many are not as familiar with is driving while you are impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol. In that case, the state really does not have to prove any particular level of alcohol in your system. They just have to prove that you are actually in control of a car, that you had alcohol in your system and you were impaired by that alcohol. Those are the different kinds of alcohol related DUIs.


There are also drug DUIs, of which there are two types; the first is being impaired to the slightest degree by a drug, just as with alcohol. The second is simply having a controlled drug or metabolite in your system. This is where the title “under the influence” can be misleading. Once a person ingests drugs, the body breaks those chemicals down into various variations before finally flushing it completely out of your system. Those variations of the original drug are called metabolites. It is illegal to drive with any prohibited drug or it’s metabolite in your system, regardless of whether or not those drugs and metabolites are actually impairing your ability to drive. There is one special exception to that rule, pertaining to marijuana. When charging a marijuana DUI, the state must prove that the person’s blood contained a metabolite that is actually capable of causing impairment.


What is alcohol and drug DUIs?

An alcohol DUI or a drug DUI are all misdemeanors except in three scenarios; first, if your license has a restriction placed on it for a prior DUI, second, if you have been convicted of two or more prior DUIs within the past seven years, and third, if there are passengers in the car who are under 15 years of age. Then there are scenarios that make a DUI a felony.

Another thing to point out is that you can have a very serious felony for drinking and driving or having drugs in your system and driving if you get into a car accident. When you cause some harm to somebody else, then it becomes a very serious felony where you are looking at many years in prison. If you hurt someone, even someone in your own car, you can be charged with aggravated assault. Even worse, if someone dies in the accident, then you are looking at manslaughter charges.

Facing a Dui?

DUIs are one of the most common criminal charges in Arizona. The consequences can be severe and life-changing. If you are not sure How a DUI Is Defined under Arizona Laws, call the law office of Tait & Hall for a Initial Consultation at (480) 405-6767 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.


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