DUI and wrong-way driving

DUI has a new aggravation — wrong way driving — as of 2018. Presumably added in the recent years as wrong-way driving, which is almost always associated with impairment, seems to have become more common. (NTSB says official — FARS —  stats are only 50%, however because of non-testing all drivers, the actual figure is “as high as” 75%)

This popped up in the news a few days ago; when police say driver Charles Tack was DUI, driving the wrong way, and involved in a (non-injury) collision on the Loop 202 freeway near I-10.

The driver is president of the Charter School Board, making this newsworthy perhaps only because of that; the “celebrity” effect.

In years past, before the seeming profusion/spate dating to ~ 2014 of horrendous wrong-way driving incidents on Phx metro freeways, the driver would likely only have been charged with “simple” DUI, a minor misdemeanor that typically nets a few days in jail. Had the incident resulted in a serious injury or a death, the driver then would (both then and now) be charged with very serious felonies — aggravated assault / 2nd degree murder… but in this instance since no injury resulted prosecutors would be left with no more serious criminal options; enter aggravated DUI, a class 4 felony.

§28-1383 A5. Commits a violation of section 28-1381, section 28-1382 (i.e. plain-old DUI) or this section while driving the wrong way on a highway.
… “Wrong way” means vehicular movement that is in a direction opposing the legal flow of traffic. Wrong way does not include median crossing or a collision where a motor vehicle comes to a stop facing the wrong way.

A quick note about the meaning of the word ‘highway’; in legal lingo that means any street, it’s not restricted to freeways or somesuch.

On two-way streets/highways, the “legal direction” would be defined as being in compliance with 28-721, the rule that says drivers must drive (or ride) upon the right-half of the roadway, see ride-with-traffic.

Most or all freeways, of course, aren’t two-way roadways, they are two separate one-way roadways; (controlled by signage, i suppose?); it’s interesting that they excluded median-crossing.

History of Aggravated DUI Law

To review history of this statute, use “title section search“. Here are the 5 ways to get an aggravated DUI:

  1. DUI while the driver’s license has problems (before 1999)
  2. repeat DUI within some timeframe (before 1999)
  3. DUI with a child in the car (this used to be a separate, less serious, statute, 28-1387,  p.280 session laws ch76 42nd 2R, 1996 . At some point it got rolled into Agg DUI)
  4. DUI if driving while an alcohol interlock is required (~2005?)
  5. DUI while driving wrong-way (2018; HB2243 53rd 2R )

Potential Punishment

Since it’s a class 4 felony, and presumably dangerous; the sentencing is NOT probationable (i.e. a minimum of 6/7th of the amount of time sentenced must be served in prison), and the range is 4/6/8 years (min / presumptive / maximum). See Arizona’s Truth in Sentencing for details.

This sounds like a lot. Maybe there’s something I’m not understanding; but AFAIK  the only way around it would be to somehow claim it’s “not dangerous” which seems ridiculous but there you have it. Under that section, the sentence could be as little as 1 year, and from what I recall any or all of it can be suspended at the judge’s discretion, which would or could result in no incarceration; there is, however, a provision within the law itself 28-1383D3 that places an absolute minimum of 4 months prison time for a wrong-way DUI conviction.

Criminal Case

So once the case gets going, can be followed here for outcome.

The date of incident is 5/19/2019; should also generate an Arizona Crash Report.

The outcome is significantly less serious; the county prosecutor for whatever reason allowed Charles Tack to plead guilty in a March 2020 deal to to the extreme DUI, plus the (much) reduced charge of endangerment (an F6) and dropped the “wrong-way DUI” charge, and was sentenced as NON-DANGEROUS resulting in a 2 years of probation, and a few days in jail. You probably heard that DUI laws in Arizona were tough — don’t believe it.  This is hardly the presumptive 6 year prison sentence for a dangerous aggravated DUI that legislators intended. Isn’t this prosecutors taking it on themselves to give out justice as they see fit?

Is this an isolated case of a “sweetheart” deal? I suspect not… but who knows. It seems more like the case that the prosecutor is soft on drunk driving, and subverting the law by not bringing the charge, or just always negotiating it away. Somewhat similar to how hit-and-run drivers are rarely prosecuted commensurate with that crime’s serious Felony classification. (those convicted tend to get a lot of non-dangerous / probation sentences.). See below for NewTimes listical of notable DUIs.

Here’s More

… for comparison purposes. In this case, the suspect, 21-year-old Daizja Jenise Thompson,  was not involved in a crash:

Tempe police report that on August 25, around 3:30 a.m., a woman was seen by police entering the eastbound off-ramp on the Loop 202 at McClintock Drive. When the officer caught up to her, she was attempting to turn around.
Court records show her preliminary breath test registered a .119 blood-alcohol content.
(the suspect) is a Denver resident attending Grand Canyon University. She has been charged with aggravated DUI. — abc15.com

Fun fact: An April 2017 triple-wrong-way freeway fatality: “It was later revealed Allison (of Colorado Springs, CO, the wrong-way driver; who was killed) and one of the Richardson sisters (the two victims/sisters were in another vehicle and both killed) both attended Grand Canyon University, a school representative announced Friday.”

And a Few More…

Jopshua Degursky, Sept 2019


Garrett William Ruby


Angela Suzanne Morgan; 31 y.o.  Jan 9, 2020; crashed but no (other, anyway?) injury. wrong-way crossed over median on Grand (non-freeway). “facing felony charges … she reportedly blew a .330, way over the legal limit of .08”. azfamily.com


5 thoughts on “DUI and wrong-way driving”

  1. Since the law pertains to all streets, a driver could claim that driving the wrong way on a quiet residential street for one block at 3 a.m. wasn’t dangerous.

    But I’m impressed how you got the electronic records. I find getting such info. from our local police isn’t quite that easy. Was this local cop or state trooper?

  2. ya, that doesn’t trouble me; the prosecutor has leeway there.

    This was our state police (Dept of Public Safety). Electronic records are easy to get depending on which court. The Maricopa County (the large county that contains the Phx-metro area) is well hooked up, so all you need is a name and it will pop right up.
    Other courts are hit-and-miss…

  3. There was a longish in-depth review of wrong-way driving crashes @azcentral reporter @PerryVandell
    “Data: Alcohol involved in over half of wrong-way crashes in Arizona” @wesavelivesorg

    @PerryVandell PLEASE look into drunk + wrong way driving — it’s a FELONY since 2018 yet nobody gets punished, see e.g. a few days in jail here: https://azbikelaw.org/dui-and-wrong-way-driving/

    Reach the reporter Perry Vandell at 602-444-2474 or perry.vandell@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @PerryVandell.

  4. here’s another one from Aug 2022:
    (no names)…
    Department Report Number: I22046205
    Preliminary Information:
    On Sunday, August 21, 2022, at approximately 4:35 a.m., Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) troopers received notification of a wrong-way vehicle traveling eastbound on westbound Interstate 10 at milepost 153, near Broadway Road in Tempe.
    A state trooper located a red Cadillac sedan traveling southbound on northbound State Route 101 at milepost 56, between Guadalupe and Baseline Roads. The trooper intercepted and made the courageous decision to collide with the vehicle, successfully bringing it to a stop.
    The state trooper sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the collision and was transported to a hospital.
    The wrong-way driver is a 22-year-old man and is suspected to be impaired. The man also sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to a hospital.
    The investigation is ongoing.

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