If you’re pulled over for a DUI in Arizona, you will find yourself in a kind of double bind (though not double jeopardy, for reasons that will be explained later). Even if there has been no accident or other mishap, in Arizona, someone arrested for drunk driving faces two charges instead of one:
- A criminal charge for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- A civil charge for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08
Why two charges? And what’s the difference between them?
The criminal charge of DUI will be more familiar to most people. It’s against the law to drive while under the influence of alcohol in Arizona, and if you are arrested for it you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Most DUIs result in misdemeanor charges. However, if you are extremely intoxicated, driving under suspension, or have previous offenses, you might well face a felony charge, which can bring serious penalties.
The civil charge involves something called Admin Per Se. This phrase refers to the fact that when you get an Arizona license, you agree that you are in per se (inherent) violation of the terms of your license if you fail a DUI test or refuse to have your blood alcohol measured. No trial is needed. A fail earns you a 90-day suspension, and a refusal can get you suspended for one to two years, depending on your prior record.
One question concerning implied consent that often arises is: how can you punish someone without proof of a crime? Isn’t that a violation of a motorist’s right?
In fact, driving is not a right – it’s a privilege. And this privilege can be taken away via suspension if you don’t follow the procedures, which includes providing a test sample for police officers.
You also might be wondering if having two charges for one crime counts as double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. The answer is no, because the two charges are not both criminal – one is civil, and civil charges are not protected by double jeopardy laws.
Your criminal DUI charge will be handled in court. It could be dismissed or upheld, and the punishment could vary depending on the factors involved. Your civil charge will be handled by the MVD at a civil proceeding. You can have an attorney help you with this hearing as well as your court trial.
Thanks to these two types of charges, drunk driving in Arizona is a huge hassle for the offender. It takes time and money to deal with the legal and administrative issues, and the outcome is rarely pleasant. A potent reminder that it should all be avoided by never drinking and driving.