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The difference between misdemeanor and felony DUI in Arizona

People often think about a drunk driving offense as a single, specific charge. However, there are a wide range and levels of charges that can stem from a DUI arrest. 

A DUI charge in Arizona typically involves several factors in addition to intoxication. Law enforcement agents will often increase or reduce charges based on these factors, which will directly impact the severity of penalties a driver could be facing. 

Many drivers will be charged with a misdemeanor DUI. This is a less severe level of criminal charge than a felony. However, if additional factors are present at the time of an arrest, a DUI charge can be elevated to a felony.

In addition to being legally intoxicated, other factors that could result in felony DUI include:

  • Repeat offenses within a certain period of time
  • Driving without a license
  • Driving with a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle
  • Being extremely intoxicated
  • Causing an accident that involves injuries

If one or a combination of these factors is identified when a driver is arrested and charged, it is very possible that the charges will be more severe. 

Drivers should remember, however, that DUI charges can be reduced or dismissed in many cases when plea negotiations are successful or if the evidence presented at trial does not support the severity of the charges. In order to build an effective defense and better understand the legal options available for challenging charges, it may be wise to consult an attorney. 

DUI charges will not go away on their own; drivers should not ignore them or assume that they can always be dealt with by paying a fine. Failure to address these charges can result in a conviction and the harshest penalties including jail time, increased insurance rates, community service, alcohol counseling requirements and even a suspended or revoked license. 

Source: Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety, "Arizona DUI Laws," accessed on Oct. 8, 2014

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