A DUI arrest, by itself, regularly includes the unwelcome prospect of a driver’s license suspension—even for those individuals who have a driver’s license from another state. The length of the suspension can vary based on a variety of circumstances, and oftentimes, a valid driver’s license is a necessary part of your life so that you can go to work, get the kids to school and other events, and attend appointments. So what should you know about these suspensions, and why might you consider having your attorney dispute the suspension with Arizona’s MVD?
Pre-Adjudication License Consequences
Following a DUI arrest, the police will request that you submit to a breath or blood test and will read you “Admin Per Se/Implied Consent” admonitions or warnings. As a driver under Arizona law, meaning you have an Arizona license or an out-of-state license that affords you the privilege to drive in Arizona, you acknowledge that it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you are suspected of driving while impaired, you must give your consent to submit to a blood or breath test.
If your BAC result comes back at a .08 or greater, or a .04 or greater if you have a commercial driver’s license, or the test indicates the presence of an impairing or prohibited drug or its metabolite (found in A.R.S. §13-3401) without a valid prescription, the Motor Vehicle Department will request a 90-day suspension of your driver’s license.
If you refuse to voluntarily consent to the breath or blood test, the Motor Vehicle Department will impose a one-year suspension on your driver’s license, even if the test results would not support a DUI conviction. This is called an implied consent refusal. Keep in mind that if you do not consent to the chemical testing, the law enforcement officer can still submit a request for a search warrant to draw your blood with an on-call judge. If a search warrant is ordered, you have no legal grounds to refuse the testing at that point; however, your DUI attorney may be able to challenge the validity of the search warrant in court at a later time.
If you have had a DUI arrest within the previous seven years, from date of arrest to date of arrest, the suspensions can increase. For example, if you have an implied consent refusal from a previous DUI arrest and you get a second implied consent refusal, the driver’s license suspension will be for two years!
Keep in mind that not every suspension may be legally appropriate. The police officers must not do anything that would coerce your consent, but by the same token, they also must adequately inform you of the circumstances, including the consequences of consenting to the testing and having certain substances in your blood, what could happen if you do not consent, and if you ultimately do end up with a license suspension, what you must do in order to get it reinstated. When determining whether a 90-day suspension is appropriate, the MVD’s administrative law judges will look at a number of issues: was there a valid reason for the officer to stop you? Did the officer have probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of DUI? Did the officer read you the required admonitions about the testing and your driver’s license? Did the blood or breath test results show that you had a prohibited drug in your system without a valid prescription or an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater? When faced with a one-year suspension for failure to voluntarily consent to the testing, the MVD will also review the validity of the stop, the arrest, and the admonitions, but they will also carefully review whether the person refused the test or failed to expressly consent to the test, as well as having been informed of the consequences of refusing to give consent.
Your DUI attorney can request an Administrative Hearing on your behalf with the MVD to dispute these suspensions and can help you decide the best route to take. These hearings are not automatic and are completely separate from any other court hearings you may have.
Post-Adjudication License Consequences
If you are convicted of a DUI, this can also impact your driver’s license. Every DUI conviction is automatically reported to Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Department by the court. Upon receiving notice of a DUI conviction, MVD will require you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle, regardless of whether you reside in Arizona or out-of-state. You may also be required to take Traffic Survival School due to the number of points associated with the DUI conviction, and you may also be ordered to provide MVD with an SR-22 (high risk insurance). If you fail to comply with any of these MVD orders, your license will most likely be suspended, and you will not be able to reinstate your license until you do comply with the orders.
Further, if you have a prior serious traffic offense (including Reckless Driving, DUI, and Racing, among others) and get a second serious traffic offense within seven years, MVD can revoke your license for at least a one year period, in addition to all of the other requirements listed above. In some cases, you may be eligible for a Special Ignition Interlock Restricted Driver’s License in order to allow you to drive on a limited basis until the revocation time is completed. After the revocation period has ended, MVD will still require you to submit a revocation packet to get your license back.
What if you get a DUI and you are under 21? Does it matter if there were drugs in your blood instead of alcohol? MVD can impose additional consequences for those convicted of major traffic offenses under the age of 21, and much harsher consequences for those under 18, such as a mandatory two-year license suspension. Keep in mind that anyone under 21 years old is legally prohibited from consuming alcohol, not to mention driving while there is any alcohol in his or her blood, and Arizona has special charges for these situations. A Drug DUI conviction may still result in the order of an ignition interlock device for those under 21.
If your license was suspended, either pre-adjudication or post-adjudication, it is important to remember that you must still pay a license reinstatement fee to MVD, in addition to any other requirements, once you become eligible for reinstatement. If you do not, your license will remain suspended, and if you drive while your license is suspended, you can be facing additional criminal charges.