Arizona is known for taking a tough stance on DUIs, and it gets even tougher when it comes to underage drinking and driving. Under A.R.S. § 4-244(34), if a person under the age of 21 has any alcohol in their system, they can be charged with the crime of underage drinking and driving. It does not matter if their driving was impaired, and there is no buffer zone. Any BAC above 0.000% can result in criminal charges, and this is in addition to the possible adult DUI charges if the underage person’s BAC was above 0.08%.
A conviction of underage drinking and driving is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to six months in jail, a $2,500 fine, a two-year license suspension, and court surcharges. A first time offender will often be given probation instead of jail costs, but still faces the financial penalties along with collateral consequences such as not being able to get to work while under license suspension.
In addition, an underage drinking and driving conviction will almost always result in hefty insurance premium hikes, including for the parents if the underage driver was on a family policy, and the purchase of a costly SR-22 insurance policy may be required to restore your license. If you are placed on probation or given restricted driving privileges, such as the ability to drive only to work or school, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car at your cost. This device performs a breath test on the car’s driver, and the car will not start if the driver has any alcohol on their breath.
Because underage drinking and driving is charged if the driver has any alcohol in their system, the possible defenses are limited, but there are still options. The most common defenses are on constitutional grounds such as the police officer having no reasonable suspicion to make the initial traffic stop or not having probable cause to take a person into custody for sobriety testing. If a constitutional violation occurred, dismissal of the charges is likely. Another common defense is that there is no proof that the alleged “driver” was not in physical control of the car — this is typically available where police make an arrest even though the car was parked or when they arrive at an accident scene after the fact.
Each case is unique, and we encourage you to contact the Schill Law Group in Phoenix, Arizona, to discuss the specific circumstances regarding your case. Our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys includes former prosecutors and a former judge, so we have the knowledge to attack the charges against you from any angle. We also offer flat fee representation so you never have to worry about paying more to exercise your constitutional right to take your case to trial. Call us now to schedule a free consultation.