Articles Tagged with DUI impairment

How National Agency’s Recommendations Will Impact Arizona Drivers

Arizona has tough DUI laws. They may get tougher, but not by much. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent federal agency, recently recommended, among other things, that the blood alcohol threshold be dropped from .08 BAC to .05 in all 50 states. Those drivers whose blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 are presumed under Arizona and other state laws to be impaired.

The NTSB is an investigative agency. It doesn’t have the authority to institute the changes. It is up to the Department of Transportation whether it wants to endorse this recommendation or not. States will each have to decide whether to accept the recommendation from NTSB. If the NTSB gets support from the Department of Transportation and other states, they will be closer to Arizona’s current policies against drunk driving.

The American Beverage Institute (ABI) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) took offense to this recommendation. They believe that a lower BAC targets moderate drinkers in addition to drivers who are actually drunk. A representative of ABI said, “Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior.”

ABI points to research indicating that less than 1% of over 32,000 traffic fatalities in 2011 were caused by drivers with a BAC between .05 and .08. Moreover, those with twice the current BAC (a BAC of .15 or higher) cause more than 70% of the drunk driving deaths.

NTSB argues that the research shows you start to be impaired in cognitive and visual abilities around .05, not. 08. This increases the likelihood of a serious crash. Most countries seem to agree, since they have BAC limits at .05 or lower.
But NTSB, an independent federal agency, said research shows most drivers suffer impairment of cognitive and visual functions like depth perception at a BAC level of 0.05, increasing the risks of a serious crash. According to the agency, the risk of having an accident increased substantially at .08.

More than 100 countries have BAC limits set at 0.05 or lower, according to the agency. According to another source, the U.S., Canada, and Iraq are among the small group with a BAC threshold of .08. Most European countries, most South American countries and Australia have set their BAC levels for purposes of assessing drunk driving to .05.

A representative of the AZ Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has stated that this new federal law won’t affect Arizona, claiming Arizona has “Not only the toughest laws in the country, but the toughest enforcement in the country.” He believes this extends to Arizona’s policy on driving while using drugs, too.

Arizona has passed a number of laws that are harsher than the DUI laws in other states. Among them is a law that says even if motorists have a blood alcohol level below .08 they can be cited if they are impaired.

A recently passed law requires first time DUI offenders to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their car or other vehicle for six months. An IID requires a driver to pass a breathalyzer test before being permitted to start the vehicle. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the number of drunk driving fatalities has dropped 46% since 2007.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
NTSB Safety Report on Eliminating Impaired Driving
Arizona DUI Laws
Arizona MADD.org

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Establishing driver impairment is the most challenging element of a DUI
Elements of a DUI

There are three elements of a DUI charge in Arizona. Establishing impairment is the third, and most difficult to confirm. First, the facts need to establish that the motorist must be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle. Second, the police must determine if a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Third, the police must establish that a person’s ability to drive was “Impaired to the slightest degree” or more as a result of drugs, alcohol or any combination of drugs and alcohol.

Driving “Impairment” Defined

The Arizona Department of Public Safety defines a “driver impairment” resulting from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol as:

“A reduction in the performance of critical driving tasks”
To determine if the motorist is experiencing a reduction of performance, the police are required to follow certain procedures and protocol. The officer will need to have “probable cause” to believe the driver is impaired due to drugs or alcohol.

Determining Driver Impairment

Determining an impairment of a driver is less fact oriented and less objective than determining their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level. BAC levels can be obtained through use of a breathalyzer test or a chemical test such as DUI blood test.

Here are some tools the police will use to determine if a driver is impaired:

1. The motorist driving behaviors prior to the stop;
2. Police observations of the motorist at the time of, and following the stop;
3. Mannerisms and responses of the motorist to questions asked by the officer;
4. Ability of the motorist to follow instructions;
5. Statements or admittance made by motorist to police;
6. Passenger or objective witness statements;
7. DUI Roadside Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) developed by NHTSA:
a. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Eye Test
b. On-Leg Stand Test;
c. Walk-and-Turn Test
These factors, particularly the DUI Roadside Testing FSTs are often challenged; considered biased and police opinionated, by the defense. This is because the police explain the test; provide instructions; administer the tests, and then grade the tests.

Arizona DUI Laws

Under Arizona law A.R.S. §28.1381, a motorist may be arrested for DUI, if they are driving below the legal limit of 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC); or if they are under the influence of drugs, and are “impaired to the slightest degree”. Criminal Charges will be brought as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

Criminal Defense Firm for DUI charges Tempe AZ

You should always consult a criminal defense attorney if you were arrested for any type of DUI charges. The penalties are harsh for convictions, even for firs time Drug DUI and DUI “Impaired to the slightest degree”. Sentencing is the same as those for DUI in excess of the legal limit of 0.08% BAC, but before 0.15%. Penalties include jail term of 10 days; driver’s license suspension for 90 days; use of Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on their vehicles; alcohol or drug screening and education; probation; fines, fees, and assessment costs. You will need a qualified and experienced legal advocate to defend your charges, make sure your rights are protected, and work to resolve the charges with a favorable outcome.

Additional Resources:

Arizona Department of Public Safety

Arizona State Legislature – Revised Statutes

Maricopa County Superior Court – Criminal Case Information

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