DUI checkpoint

In this Dec. 16, 2011 photo a police officer checks a driver's license at a sobriety check point in Escondido, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Lenny Ignelzi/The Associated Press

Getting out of the bar you say goodbye to your friends and you stumble back to your car. Once inside the car you grab a piece of gum, you look for any cops and start driving back home. Stopping at a red light, a white car pulls behind you and you start to get nervous. You start focusing on your driving when the light goes green but you notice those red and blue lights and pull next to the street. While grabbing a piece of gum, a man walks next to your vehicle and asks you if you have been drinking since he saw you were swerving some streets back. The officer then asks you if you will consent to a sobriety test.

When going out drinking getting arrested for a DUI can happen. Driving under the influence of alcohol, or simply a DUI, is the second most common type of arrest in the U.S. after arrests for possession of drugs, according to the FBI crime statistics for 2010. The popular notion is that a DUI would only result in installing an ignition interlock device and paying more for car insurance. That it is not the case since many states have harsher DUI laws than 20 years ago. These consequences could have not only legal consequences, but also leave a negative effect on your personal life.

DUI laws vary from state to state in that some are harsher than others. Arizona is one of the states with the harsher DUI laws out there. Especially in Maricopa County, which is famous for making all DUI offenders most likely spend their jail sentence in “tent city.”

The following information will educate you on what a DUI is and its consequences.

Q: What is a DUI?

A: According to the Arizona Revised Statutes, a DUI is driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a vapor substance that contains any toxic matter. The driver needs an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more to get a DUI. A 0.04 or more of alcohol concentration is needed for an arrest if one is driving a commercial vehicle that requires the driver to have a commercial license. In this case, if convicted of DUI it is considered a misdemeanor criminal conviction.

Q: How does an officer prove that the driver is under the influence?

A: A driver has to give consent to the officer in order to have a sobriety test. The test will either be a Breathalyzer test, blood, urine, or other bodily substances test. If the driver refuses to take the test the officer will warn them that their license will be suspended for one year. The refusal itself can be considered a criminal violation, which can be more severe penalties than a DUI.

Q: Can an arrest happen if the alcohol level concentration is less than 0.08?

A: Yes, one can be arrested if the alcohol concentration level is less than 0.08. Title 28, Chapter 4, from the Arizona Revised Statutes, states that one can be arrested for a DUI if a person’s driving ability is “impaired to the slightest.” The explanation being that each person has different tolerance levels than others. An officer just needs to prove through his investigation that the driver was slightly impaired during the incident.

Q: What are the legal consequences of a DUI?

A: The legal consequences of a DUI can include up to six months, though one has to serve up to a minimum of 10 days in jail (for which nine days can be suspended). Driving privileges will be suspended for 90 days. In order to get your driving privileges back, one has to take court order substance counseling, traffic survival school, and install an ignition interlock device in your car. The ignition interlock device is a small apparatus that measures the alcohol level of a driver. The driver needs to blow on the device, and if any alcohol is detected the car won’t turn on. This device is required at least one year. The driver will also need to get SR-22 insurance. The SR-22 is a document that proves financial responsibility by the driver after a certain traffic offense has occurred. This document is needed for two years.

Q: How can a DUI affect me apart from legal consequences?

A: If one gets arrested for a DUI while driving a commercial vehicle, the driver’s license will be suspended. The driver will be fired from his/her job since commercial licenses are needed in order to operate commercial vehicles. A DUI will come out during background searches, which can cost you the opportunity to get a job. The legal costs can also hurt your pocketbooks and limit your everyday life. Costs can be up to more than $3,500, which does not include the cost of the interlock device (which installation can run up to $200 dollars and maintenance $80 dollars a month) or the how much your insurance rates go up.

• Abel Muñiz Jr. is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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