Arizona DUI Lawyers
Arizona DUI Lawyer Kathryn McCormick

Impaired to the Slightest Degree: .08 Not Always The Magic Number

Kathryn McCormick

January 20, 2014
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Phoenix, Arizona—There is a common misconception that a person cannot be arrested for DUI in Arizona unless their blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is at least .08. To the contrary, a police officer has the discretion to make an arrest for drunk driving even when the BAC is below the so-called "legal limit."

In Arizona, it is unlawful to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other toxic substances when the person is impaired "to the slightest degree." The amount of alcohol in the person's system is irrelevant.

For example, if an officer conducts an investigation and concludes that the subject is impaired to the slightest degree, that person can be prosecuted for drunk driving even if blood or breath tests reveal a BAC less than .08.

The law recognizes that alcohol can affect people in different ways and at different levels. So long as the prosecutor can prove impairment, a jury can convict of DUI even in the absence of a BAC at or above .08.

But the .08 threshold is not without significance. There are certain presumptions under the law depending on an individual's BAC. Even though a person can be charged with DUI with a BAC less than .05, there is a presumption that the defendant was not under the influence of alcohol at this level. If the BAC is in excess of .05 but less than .08, the reading does not give rise to a presumption that the defendant was or was not under the influence of alcohol.

A separate DUI charge can be brought where the BAC is above .08. Under this part of the statute, the state is not required to prove impairment and it is presumed that the individual was under the influence of alcohol.

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