As a bedrock constitutional provision, Americans are entitled to a trial by jury in criminal offenses. However, Arizona has decided to repeal the right to a jury trial for some first-time DUI offenders and allow judges to decide guilt or innocence. Even though the change was to save ailing Arizona the time and expense of using juries, the result is a giant step backwards in constitutional protections for the accused.
Last April, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill (SB) 1200 into law. The bill became effective January 1, 2012, and now allows Arizona judges to decide if a non-extreme, first-time DUI offender is entitled to a trial by judge or jury. (Those accused of extreme and super extreme (aggravated DUI), however, are still protected by the right to a jury trial.)
SB 1200 not only affected DUI jury trials, but ignition interlock devices (IIDs), alcohol monitoring programs and license suspensions. Additionally, counties are now allowed to implement continuous alcohol monitoring programs while certain DUI offenders are released from jail on home detention. The person must serve 20 percent of their jail sentence before becoming eligible for the program.
The changes to Arizona’s DUI laws also crack down harder on the use of illegal or prescription drugs while driving. If test results show the presence of drugs in a driver’s body and they do not have a valid prescription for it, the result is an automatic license suspension of 90 days or more.
These are merely a few of the many changes SB 1200 made to Arizona’s DUI laws. Because these laws are new and very nuanced, judges may try to interpret them in a variety of ways. For that reason, it is crucial to seek the help of an experienced attorney to help secure the best outcome possible for your case.