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While a number of Arizona’s road safety laws could use some improvement, it’s well known that the state’s drunk driving laws are fine specimens that other states should imitate. One of the ways in which Arizona deals with the problem of impaired drivers is to put some thought into classification: not all drunk driving crimes are created equal.

Arizona police can charge you with one of 3 types of DUI, depending on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Standard DUI

If your BAC is at least .08 but below .15, you will face a standard DUI charge. This is a serious crime whose penalties include jail time and fines of around $1,500 for a first offense and more than twice that for a repeat offense. An ignition interlock is required for all DUIs in Arizona as well.

Extreme DUI

If you are arrested with a BAC of between .15 and .19 – a very serious level of impairment which makes the driver a lethal hazard on the road – you will be charged with Extreme DUI. In this case you could be imprisoned for a month and pay over $3,000 in fines plus other fees and costs – and that is only if it’s a first offense. In addition, you will have an ignition interlock for 18 months. If the extreme DUI is a repeat offense, expect to spend up to 6 months in jail and pay fines exceeding $3,700.

Super Extreme DUI

This charge is somewhat rare among US state laws. If you are arrested and your blood alcohol test reveals a concentration of above .20 – two and a half times the legal intoxication limit – you are in serious trouble. Jail time is 45 days, though home detention is a possibility after a few days. For repeat offenses, the jail sentence can be 6 months, with fines of about $4,600 plus other costs.

Screening for alcohol abuse problems and, if applicable, treatment is also a requirement for all of these offenses. For most of them, a community service requirement is also part of the package.

Why BAC?

There are a number of ways to judge the severity of a drunk driving offense. One is whether or not the driver caused property damage or injury. Another is whether a minor was put in danger. In fact, aggravating circumstances like those will have an effect on the sentencing as well.

But blood alcohol concentration is the primary gauge of DUI because the worse the impairment, the more likely that someone will come to harm. Statistics back that up, and Arizona is right to bump up penalties for high-BAC DUIs.

All drunk driving, however, is a crime, and enough people are killed and injured by people with a BAC in the low range that those offenses need to be taken seriously as well.

Over the ten years between 2007 and 2016, alcohol-related crashes in Arizona have gone from almost 8,000 per year to less than 5,000. Deaths have been lowered from 397 to 302, and injuries from 5,532 to 3,324. That’s a testament to Arizona’s determination to fight drunk driving with strong laws – including an all-offender ignition interlock law and extra penalties for extreme and super-extreme DUIs.

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