The new AZ DUI law withdraws the right of a jury trial for some DUI defendants. But Arizonans say “not so fast”…
June 4, 2011
Arizona News & Editorial Commentary
Article By: James Novak, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyer
AZ SB 1200 was signed into law by the Governor Jan Brewer on April 29th, 2011, to take effect December 31, 2011. A controversial provision discretely found its way into the bill at the last minute. It contained restrictive language that was not included in the earlier versions of the bill. Thus, it deprived the public of input or debate on the issue. The provision causing upset involves the revocation of some AZ DUI defendant’s statutory right to a jury trial. It applies to DUI defendants who have been charged with a first time, non-extreme Arizona DUI charges, eliminates their statutory right to a trial by jury for their AZ DUI. It does include a consolation or alternative for the judge to hear the case and decide if the AZ DUI defendant is guilty or not guilty.
It didn’t take long before the restrictive amendment sparked opposition by many Arizona citizens, AZ DUI defense attorneys, and organizations such as The Committee for the Right to Jury Trial.
Among numerous provisions, the new AZ DUI law includes the following:
1. Gives municipalities, counties and certain local AZ jurisdictions judges the authority and discretion to offer such alternative penalties to eligible defendants, home-detention programs instead of incarceration in jail.
2. Reduces the length of time from one year to 6 months for a first time, non extreme DUI offenders to use the DUI interlock device on their vehicles.
3. Eliminates the right for non-extreme, first time AZ DUI offenders the previous right to a jury trial. Instead only DUI defendants that have prior convictions, extreme DUI or less serious DUI charges to keep their previous statutory and inherent right to request a trial by jury.
The first provision makes good sense. It allows for some cost relief to help reduce the over crowded Arizona’s Jails. The second provision gives some relief to first time non-extreme misdemeanor DUI defendants. So far, so good right?
But then there is the third provision that’s facing fire. Arizona Law makers and proponents of the amendment claim that it was a move to reduce the State’s cost for expensive jury trials for those less serious DUI charges, where the blood test or breathalyzer test against them strong against the DUI defendants. The problem with that thinking, among many other reasons, is that it revokes an existing statutory right to those who fall within this category. In essence it could be argued that first time offenders are losing rights while repeat offenders get rewarded by preserving their rights.
Constitutional and Statutory Rights are one of the few things in life people lean on to protect them from mistreatment or abuses in the criminal justice system. If the move was all about Arizona saving money because “trials are too expensive” then someone needs to redo the math. How much will it cost the state of Arizona to fight any and all future repeal propositions that this amendment will face? So much for cost savings and the preservation of the States economic resources.
The Committee for the Right to Jury Trial, led by attorney Clifford Girard is asking voters to repeal that particular amendment of the new AZ DUI law in SB 1200. The committee needs to gather 86,405 signatures by July 19, 2011 to qualify for putting the repeal on the 2012 ballot. Opponents want the voters of Arizona to have the chance to decide, debate, and vote; a chance that was not provided to them before it was passed into law. Fair enough.
Article News Sources: 1) azleg.gov/legtext/50leg/1r/bills/sb1200s.pdf, 2) tuccsoncitizen.com/arizona-news/category/arizona-republic-news , 3) Associated Press 4) Arizona Republic News. 5) AZ central.com news
This news article and commentary has been posted for general public informational purposes only. All articles by this author are intended to raise awareness and generate discussion on a variety of Arizona State Law issues and topics. Note that Arizona legislation, laws, and bills are often presented and changing. If you have a criminal or DUI defense matter related to this topic, it is important that you consult or hire an Arizona criminal or AZ DUI lawyer in the jurisdiction or municipality of Arizona where you received your charges for up to date information.