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Arizona DUI Laws: Zero Tolerance

August 25, 2023 Legal Team

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only dangerous but also illegal. In Arizona, DUI laws are strictly enforced to ensure the safety of all road users.

Arizona DUI Laws Zero Tolerance

Understanding DUI in Arizona

There are two primary standards Arizona authorities use to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol:

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) 

Arizona follows the nationwide standard for BAC, which is set at 0.08% for non-commercial drivers aged 21 or older:

“It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle and the alcohol concentration results from alcohol consumed either before or while driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle.”

However, if you are under 21, Arizona enforces a strict “zero-tolerance” policy, meaning any detectable amount of alcohol can result in a DUI: 

It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to drive or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while there is any spirituous liquor in the person’s body.”

Impaired to the Slightest Degree 

Even if your BAC is lower than 0.08%, you can still be charged with a DUI if you are found to be “impaired to the slightest degree.” This means that if an officer believes your ability to operate a vehicle has been compromised in any way due to alcohol or drugs, you can face legal consequences:

It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor-releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.”

Driving Under The Influence: Commercial Drivers

For most drivers, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%. However, it’s important to note that for commercial drivers, the legal limit is much lower. If you hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), you can be charged with a DUI if your BAC level is 0.04% or above:

“It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state if the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle that requires a person to obtain a commercial driver’s license as defined in Section 28-3001 and the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more.”

This lower limit is designed to ensure commercial drivers are held to a higher standard of safety, considering the increased responsibility they carry when operating large vehicles on public roads.

DUI Penalties

Arizona has strict DUI laws, and the penalties vary depending on the severity of the offense. Here are the most common penalties you may face if convicted:

Jail Time

In some cases, even first-time DUI offenders may face jail time. The length of incarceration often will vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case such as severity of intoxication, presence of minors in the vehicle, etc.


Often given in lieu of or after jail time, probation requires the DUI offender to follow certain rules for a set period of time (e.g., regular check-ins with a probation officer, attending alcohol education classes). Violations can result in additional penalties including a possible jail sentence.


Fines are another common penalty imposed following a DUI conviction. These fines, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, are intended to deter individuals from driving under the influence. The amount depends on factors such as the severity of the offense, the driver’s blood alcohol concentration, and prior convictions.

License Suspension

Suspension of one’s driver’s license is another common penalty for a DUI conviction. Depending on the circumstances, the suspension period may range from a few months to several years. In some cases, drivers may be eligible for a restricted license, allowing them to drive under certain conditions, such as to work or attend alcohol education classes.

Ignition Interlock Device

This is a device installed in the offender’s vehicle that requires them to breathe into it before starting the car. If the device detects alcohol on their breath, it will prevent the vehicle from starting. 

Alcohol Education Classes

Alcohol education classes, sometimes ordered by the court as part of DUI penalties, are designed to educate offenders about the dangers and consequences of alcohol misuse and drunk driving. These classes typically cover topics such as the effects of alcohol on physical and mental health, understanding how alcohol impairs driving abilities, and the legal implications of a DUI conviction.

The Lasting Effects of a DUI on Your Life

The repercussions of a DUI go beyond the courtroom and can significantly impact your life. Here are some additional ways a DUI conviction can affect your life:


First, there are direct costs associated with a DUI charge such as fines, legal fees, increased insurance premiums, and the cost of alcohol education classes or treatment programs. In some cases, your vehicle may also be impounded which incurs storage fees.

Additionally, there might be indirect but long-term expenses related especially where license suspension is involved: You’ll need alternative means of transportation (public transportation, taxis, rideshares) that often cost more than driving normally would.

Reputation and Employment 

A DUI conviction can severely impact one’s personal and professional reputation. It will result in a criminal record that can be accessed by future employers, landlords, or anyone doing a background check on you. For some professions (especially those requiring driving), this might even lead to disqualification.

Civil Liability and Accidents

If you’re involved in a car accident while driving under the influence, you could face civil liability, which means you could be sued for damages by the victims or their families. This can lead to substantial financial losses, further exacerbating the negative consequences of your actions.

Arizona takes DUI offenses seriously, and it’s essential to understand the penalties and potential life consequences associated with a conviction. By remaining informed and practicing responsible driving, you can contribute to making Arizona’s roads safer for all. 

If you have been injured in a car crash with someone who was impaired, our Mesa DUI accident attorneys can help you with your claim.