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Arizona Underage DUI Laws

Posted on October 1, 2021 in Underage DUI

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime that Arizona takes very seriously – especially when the perpetrator is under the legal drinking age of 21. In an effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road, Arizona penalizes underage DUIs heavily, with expensive fines and even potential jail time. Learn what to expect if you or your child has been arrested for an underage DUI or DWI (driving while intoxicated) charge in Arizona.

What Is an Underage DUI?

The definition of driving under the influence in Arizona is being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Like many states, Arizona enforces a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers. This means that while the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08 percent for the average driver, it is reduced to any detectable amount of alcohol for a driver under the age of 21. 

If an underage driver breathes a BAC of even 0.01 percent in a Breathalyzer test during a traffic stop, he or she could get arrested for a DUI or DWI – even if the driver is not actually impaired. The zero-tolerance law aims to discourage young adults from drinking and driving by making it possible to be arrested for a DUI even if the amount of alcohol in the driver’s system is not enough to cause intoxication. 

What Are the Penalties for an Underage DUI?

The penalties for an underage DUI are harsh and can change the life and future of the individual involved. Note, however, that jail time typically is not a requirement for underage DUI charges. Instead, for a first offense, probation is more common for underage drinking and driving. It is ultimately up to a judge whether or not to impose jail time for this offense. In addition to probation, the most likely penalties are:

  • A fine of up to $2,500 for a first offense, plus surcharges
  • Restricted or suspended driver’s license
  • Two years of mandatory alcohol education classes
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device, plus related fees
  • Increased insurance rates or mandatory SR-22 insurance

These penalties can increase if it is not the driver’s first arrest for driving under the influence or if the driver had other counts of reckless driving on his or her record. The consequences of an underage DUI can also be worse if the case involves aggravating circumstances, such as a high BAC, a passenger under the age of 15 in the vehicle, or the driver causing a DUI accident and serious injuries.

Possible Defenses Against Underage DUI Charges in Arizona

It is imperative to hire an experienced Tempe underage DUI lawyer to represent you after an arrest for an alleged underage DUI or DWI in Arizona. An attorney can help you mitigate the charges, such as by potentially getting the courts to reduce them to reckless driving, as well as argue for a lighter sentence. This is if the defense lawyer cannot get the courts to dismiss the charges completely, which may be possible with the right defense. Potential defense options include: 

  • No crime committed (the individual was not under the influence)
  • Lack of actual physical control of a vehicle
  • Lack of probable cause to make the traffic stop
  • Unlawful search or seizure
  • Failure to read Miranda rights
  • Inaccurate blood or breath test
  • Biased field sobriety test
  • Denial of the right to call a lawyer

The defense strategy that is right for you will depend on the circumstances of your individual case, such as the evidence that the prosecutor has against you and your criminal history as a defendant. If you or a loved one gets arrested for an underage DUI, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney near you for a legal consultation. Working with an attorney from the very beginning of your case is how you can achieve the best possible resolution.

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