AZ legislature tweaks DUI laws

UPDATE: 12/26/2011 ; new, reduced penalties kick in in a few days… DUI sentences to ease in 2012 for first time offenders:1st-time offenders will be rid of interlock devices sooner

——– original article follows ——–

The dramatic weakening of what were formerly among the most severe DUI penalties in the US take effect in mid-July 2011 — Hundreds of new Arizona laws take effect this week

In what seems to be annual ritual, the Arizona legislature passed and the governor signed changes to Arizona’s DUI laws via SB1200 (Spring 2011: 50th, 1st regular session).

There are a whole bunch of tweaks to the length of ignition interlock (IID), length of suspensions, fines, and so forth, see the fact sheets at the azleg link for a somewhat long history. Perhaps the most controversial provision is that it reduces the length of time for IID for non-extreme first-time DUI from 12 to 6 months if certain requirements are met.

Any reduction in DUI penalties would reverse a trend toward ever-toughening sanctions. Here’s a news article: Bill would lessen DUI penalties, cut trials (my comments in parentheticals):

Sen. Steve Pierce R-Prescott, says it’s an effort to “help keep people on the road.” (wow, this is a really remarkable statement. The “people” he’s referring to are convicted criminals, people i would rather see off the road because they’ve lost their driving PRIVILEGE)

The changes were needed, Pierce said, to soften harsh policies that were “damaging families, damaging people’s lives,” while encouraging offenders to change their behavior.

Supporters of the bill say the interlock and other provisions don’t just give criminals a second chance, they shift much of the expense to the individual instead of the government. (I’m not sure how true this is. From what i read elsewhere there is no right to jury trial, the defendant has to petition for it and only if they can show some sort of hardship is it granted).

“It’ll save the taxpayers,” Gray said, about not requiring a jury trial. “Why go through all that expense for a jury trial for one day (in jail)?” (from what i understand, persons convicted and sent to jail are assessed some huge fines which are supposed to offset the costs) .

The bill puts the now-mandatory 24 hours in jail for first offenders to the “discretion of the presiding judge.” (I am not seeing this, the law 28-1381(J) still says “the judge may suspend all but one day of the sentence…” there was a editorial change to this paragraph, it replaced the phrase “twenty-four consecutive hours” with “one day”; but it still seems to me to REQUIRE a jail visit ) It allows judges to cut 30 days to nine for extreme DUI cases. For super-extreme DUI, the 45-day minimum sentence could be reduced to 14 days. All the reductions are contingent on having the interlock installed. (this vast reduction in potential penalties kind of disturbs me; though I do think other things might be more effective than jail such as longer, supervised, license suspensions) .

Perhaps the most notable from a big-picture point of view is “Eliminates the requirement that a person charged with first time, non-extreme DUI be entitled to a jury trial.

According to an AZ Rep editorial,New DUI law wasn’t vetted, this provision was done in secret at the last minute… though I’m not sure that’s true.

4 thoughts on “AZ legislature tweaks DUI laws”

  1. The reduction in potential penalties disturbs me too. I think keeping them in jail longer would actually be most helpful.

  2. Every single US citizen has the potential to make a mistake. This means we all have the potential to become “criminals”.

    Just because something is agains the law, doesn’t make it inherently wrong. Research the Nuremburg Laws if you think that viewing the world from a high horse is such a wise choice.

    I had a friend convicted of a DUI for being at .08…the ARBITRARY “legal limit”. He was placed in Tent City and was sent to the ICU after he was beaten by another inmate. This friend was a stockbroker with a family.

    These laws are arcane, and in a sense, indefensible because they are written so stringently.

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