Arizona DUI Arrests Fall by 3028 in 2013: Tempe DUI Lawyer Provides Insight Beyond the Statistics

The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety recently released statistics for impaired driving arrests in 2013 across the Grand Canyon State. Tempe DUI defense lawyer James Novak commented on the results, and Arizona's stance on DUI.
By: Law Office of James E. Novak
TEMPE, Ariz. - Jan. 14, 2014 - PRLog -- The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (AGOHS) released their annual statistics for arrests for driving under the influence across the state in 2013 last week. Tempe DUI defense lawyer James Novak said that while the number of DUI arrests dropped, this should not be an indication, that impaired driving is any lesser a problem, or that law enforcement takes DUI any less seriously.

The State of Arizona still has cause for vigilance where impaired drivers are concerned. Novak said the State recognizes the importance of not slowing down efforts to combat impaired driving incidents. The State credits its reduced arrest statistics on community outreach efforts,  law enforcement agency partnerships and DUI media campaigns.

However, Novak added that to avoid misconceptions in the decreased arrests numbers, a few facts surrounding the statistics can’t be ignored. He observed that there were 9.3% fewer DUI arrests, but 12.6% fewer DUI safety stops during that time frame. The report indicated there were also 5,000 fewer officers participating in the enforcement activities.  “The number of DUI arrests clearly revealed a statistical decrease in 2013, but since given the larger decrease in the number of stops, it begs the question: ‘Were there fewer motorists in fact driving impaired, or were there simply fewer impaired drivers being caught?”

Drivers are always cautioned to refrain from driving impaired due to drugs or alcohol. Novak cautions motorists not to misinterpret the decreased arrest statistics a sign that impaired driving won’t  get them into trouble.

The AGOHS reported 766,859 traffic stops in 2013, of which 29,163 resulted in an arrest for driving under the influence, or 3.8 percent of all stops. This compares to 877,614 stops in 2012, of which 32,171 resulted in arrests, or 3.6 percent of all stops. The reasons for this were not reported. However, it costs time and money and resources to to make the stops, arrests and complete the processing.

The average Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for a driver stopped has not decreased from last year, at .15 percent. This is a concern, because it means that on average the driver’s arrested in both 2012 and 2013 were found to have BAC levels to the extreme. A BAC of .15 or higher is classified as a violation of Extreme DUI ( under Arizona law; and a level of .20 percent BAC or higher it is a violation of Arizona’s Super Extreme DUI laws.

An extreme DUI carries greater punishment than a regular DUI. This includes longer jail terms, with no opportunity for probation or deferred adjudication for a first sentence unless the full sentence is served. It also includes higher fines, fees, and assessments, use of Ignition Interlock Device (IID) . Punishments imposed by the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles include license suspension or revocation.

Aggravated Felony DUI arrests constituted 12.0% of all DUI arrests 2013. This represents a slight increase of felony DUI incidents over 2012 where there were 11.4% Aggravated felony DUI ( charges.

Aggravated DUI or those charges where a Misdemeanor DUI was raised to a felony due to aggravating circumstances. Felony DUI convictions are very serious in Arizona and expose a person to prison sentencing, among other harsh punishments.

Aggravating circumstances include DUI with accidents causing bodily injury, significant harm or death; committal of a third DUI violation or more within 84 months; Impaired driving offense while driving with a license suspended or revoked because of a prior DUI charge or with a minor 15 or younger in the car.

Drug DUI arrests amounted to 14 percent, which is close to the same as last year. But this is likely the most concerning area of all trends. Drug DUI arrests have consistently shown sharp increases each year, resulting in statistics that are now nearly four times higher than 2009.  Novak said these numbers can be attributed to the increased availability of medical marijuana, coupled with Arizona’s zero tolerance policy for driving with any controlled substance in the system. A person who tests positive for marijuana while driving can be convicted of DUI, even if not currently under the influence.

This law has raised national controversy. The current Drug DUI laws prohibit driving while under the influence of any drug or its metabolite, if the drug falls within the definition of criminal code. But the language of the law does not specify that the driver must be found to be driving impaired. A Marijuana substance known as Carboxy-THC can stay in the body for days, weeks and even months while the body metabolizes it, depending on the user’s tolerance, frequency, and quantity used.  Interestingly, there is no known legal or scientific dispute that this metabolite does not cause driving impairment.  At least one Marijuana DUI conviction has been appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court involving a non-impaired Marijuana DUI conviction. A decision is expected this month, and could change the way the State prosecutes these cases.

Novak sees this as the biggest challenge Arizonans and the State will face in 2014, given legalization of Medical Marijuana, and the opposition that Medical Marijuana “Zero Tolerance” driving laws are facing. Many states allow for motorists to drive with a statutory amount of THC or Marijuana in their system. As Marijuana laws become more lenient, the state will sooner or later be faced with the challenge of reviewing Marijuana DUI Laws to make sure they are serving the needs of the State and not in violation of Arizona Driver’s constitutional rights.

Novak reminds those charged with DUI of any kind to exercise their right to retain qualified and experienced DUI legal representation to defend their charges.  Any person who is accused of impaired driving in Arizona  should contact a DUI defense attorney.  If retained, a qualified  attorney will defend their rights, challenging evidence, like DUI tests, that may be illegally obtained or are faulty. Like any other criminal conviction, a DUI conviction requires the prosecution to bring evidence proving all elements beyond reasonable doubt.

“A person’s safest bet against a DUI arrest is to refrain from driving while impaired at all. But if they’re arrested, they should immediately contact an attorney, who will protect their rights and defend their charges. There are two things that will get a person a swift and harsh DUI conviction. First is self-incrimination. Second is failing to retain a qualified criminal defense attorney to defend them.” says Novak.

James E. Novak, of the Law Office of James E. Novak, is a Tempe DUI defense lawyer ( who represents people accused of driving under the influence throughout Maricopa County, including in Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale.

James E. Novak
(480) 413-1499
Source:Law Office of James E. Novak
Tags:Tempe, Criminal Defense, Dui, Felony Dui, Extreme Dui
Industry:Government, Legal
Location:Tempe - Arizona - United States
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Page Updated Last on: Jan 14, 2014
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