Below the legal limit? You can still go to jail.

Arizona’s DUI laws have rightly earned their reputation of being some of the nation’s strictest. According to state law, an officer can arrest and send you to jail even if you are below the legal .08 limit.

“If I feel that you are impaired to the slightest degree, I’m going to arrest you for DUI,” Glendale police Sgt. Mark Malinski said in an interview with The Arizona Republic.

Malinski, who heads the West Valley DUI Task Force, has seen quite a few impaired people taken off the road. And while there’s no way to know whether that impaired person would have been involved in a crash, he says he knows he’s making a difference.

“I feel like we’re actually accomplishing something. A lot of the people that we arrest don’t realize that we’re actually trying to save their life.”

Arizona has about 20 DUI-related task forces, including Malinski’s, one in the East Valley and several in the northern and southern parts of the state.

And every year, these task forces pull over and send more and more impaired drivers to jail. In 2009 alone, the West Valley force made over 4,000 misdemeanor DUI arrests, up from 3,300 in 2008.

Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, called the task forces “incredibly effective” in the article.

“What it is is a message to people that they can celebrate, they can enjoy, but if you’re going to drink too much, get a cab, get a designated driver, or walk home, but don’t get behind the wheel of a car,” Gutier said to The Arizona Republic.

The Office helps sponsor the Task Forces, including helping to pay overtime for the officers involved. On the agency’s website, a note reminds driver’s of the very real consequences of drinking and driving–no matter how slightly intoxicated–in Arizona:

The police officers, highway patrolmen and sheriff’s deputies in the State of Arizona have a Zero Tolerance policy towards individuals driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Please do NOT drink and drive. Call a cab. Bring a sober designated driver. Have a sober friend or family member come pick you up. The risks are definitely not worth it.

And remember: Drive Hammered… Get Nailed!

This post was intended to provide general information only and is not intended as specific legal advice. You should not rely upon this information alone, but should consult legal counsel regarding the application of the laws and regulations discussed and as applied to your specific case or circumstance.

Photo used under Creative Commons from BarelyFitz