Arizona Legislators Pass Strict DUI Laws

This week Arizona state legislators sent a bill to Governor Janet Napolitano that would make Arizona DUI laws among the toughest in the country. Included in the measure is a requirement for all those convicted of drunk driving in Arizona to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. That includes first time offenders.

The legislation is modeled after a New Mexico ignition interlock law that contributed to a 12 percent drop in alcohol related traffic fatalities.

While it is widely accepted that an ignition-interlock requirement is needed for repeat offenders and chronic alcohol abusers, there are concerns over its application to those arrested for their first DUI. Citing the fact that the majority of those charged with DUI never have an additional offense, opponents of the Arizona law feel it is an excessive penalty for otherwise socially responsible drinkers.

The Arizona Motor Vehicle Division predicts 14,000 first time DUI offenders will be required to have an interlock device installed in their vehicle. Monitoring compliance will be difficult, as already seen in New Mexico where 40% of offenders say they do not own a vehicle and do not plan to drive, thus exempting them from the court requirement for a device. The Arizona law would require those convicted of a DUI to have an ignition interlock device on every vehicle they drive, which raises questions company owned vehicles.

The Arizona DUI legislation also creates a category of extreme drunken driving for motorists with a blood-alcohol content in excess of 0.20 percent. Such offenders would be required to spend 45 days in jail with no time suspended. The governor of Arizona recently signed into law a measure that requires anyone arrested with a BAC over 0.15 percent to spend 30 days in jail.

The new Arizona bill was widely passed both the state House and Senate before being sent to the governor for her signature.

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