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Where were you arrested? A DUI is a state offense, but each jurisdiction handles them slightly differently.

Don’t ruin your summer vacation: A sobering look at federal DUIs

If you’re not a frequent visitor to Arizona’s national parks and forests, you may not know much about the consequences of being charged with a DUI while on federal land. Hopefully, this topic will help someone avoid what could be a very unpleasant end to their summer vacation on federally controlled lands.

What is considered federal land?

The term “federal land” covers a variety of things, including not only national parks and forests, but also any land that is managed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management. It also includes military bases, federal buildings - like courthouses, post offices and airports - and even the parking lots attached to those places, as well as national monuments or historic places. All in all, the federal government owns almost 650 million acres of land, which adds up to almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (the science agency for the U.S. Department of the Interior).

Federal DUIs have serious consequences

A federal DUI can be charged to any driver who is allegedly operating a motor vehicle on federal land who is at that time:

●      Impaired by drugs, either illegal or legally prescribed, and/or alcohol

●      Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08 percent

Like Arizona state DUI laws, driving on land that is federally owned is viewed as your automatic consent to submit to BAC testing, which you would be wise to comply with. Refusal of a BAC test itself is a federal misdemeanor, which will earn you hefty fines and up to a year in prison.

If you are charged with a DUI while driving in a national park, your DUI is considered a Class B misdemeanor, which can include steep penalties up to $5,000 in fines and up to six months in a federal prison, followed by up to five years of federal probation. And if you cause a DUI accident that results in injuries or death, or are caught driving over the BAC limit with a minor-aged passenger in your car, that misdemeanor may quickly be elevated to a federal felony charge.  

Federal DUIs in court

One of the differences between state and federal level DUI charges is the way they are handled by the court. Unlike a DUI charge on a state level, federal DUI case trials are overseen by a federal magistrate who provides the verdict. There are no juries for federal DUI cases, but you will be allowed to have an attorney represent you.

Conviction of a federal DUI will also result in a permanent mark on your criminal record with no recourse for expungement regardless of how much time has passed. Keep these things in mind as you plan your next camping trip and remember that planning ahead and having a sober driver is the best way to avoid a DUI. If you find yourself in need of an attorney, please don’t hesitate to call the attorney’s at Rosenstein Law Group, PLLC 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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