Out-of-State Visitors can get DUI’s too

Flickr User: Wanderingtheworld

It’s pretty much common knowledge that Arizona has harsh penalties for DUI offenses, particularly in and around Scottsdale where the nightlife is constantly booming.

So it seems second nature to us Arizonans to always plan ahead—carpool, designate a sober driver or take a cab. We’ve heard too many stories of friends getting DUI’s and we’ve learned that it’s not worth it.

But what about the millions of visitors who come in and out of Sky Harbor International each year? What happens when visitors from out-of-town happen to land themselves a DUI while out at night enjoying themselves on vacation?

Technically, it is always a citizens’ responsibility to know the laws of the land. Being somewhere that you don’t consider “home” doesn’t get you any pity points from police officers. If you break the law, you must serve the sentence.

So what are these penalties that out-of-state visitors may face?

For a first time extreme DUI offense (i.e. blood alcohol result of .150 and below a .200), despite the outstanding character you may have, the minimum sentence is 30 days jail. Combine this with certain prosecuting agencies that offer a plea agreement of 30 days jail (or close to it), and out-of-state visitors have a real problem.

For the Arizona resident, 30 days jail is a tremendous burden. However, at least with work release, you should be able to keep your employment. If you live in California and are sentenced to 30 days jail in Arizona, your job and your career is now in jeopardy. How many employers are going to say, “Sure, take thirty days off to go serve a jail term in Scottsdale, no problem?” This misdemeanor offense can have penalties that could ruin someone’s livelihood.

There are a few solutions that may help remedy the problem. An out-of-state visitor can request an order to do their jail in their home state. That request is almost always granted. However, the judge will tell you it is your responsibility to find a jail in your home state that will comply with the incarceration order. This is easier said than done because jails are overflowing as it is—it may be unlikely they will house you for a full 30 days!

To solve this problem, we have had to employ former law enforcement officers and had them assist with getting our clients accepted into the facility. Even using this method, it is still difficult. Moreover, how many people can afford this service?

The other option is going to trial. If you can convince the jury that your blood alcohol concentration was merely over .08 but below .150, then the minimum jail is reduced to one day.

In sum, Arizona has set up a terrible dilemma for out-of-state visitors charged with extreme DUI and it doesn’t appear they’re making moves to change any of it. If you have guests visiting from out-of-town, please make sure you are all being smart and safe because dealing with DUI penalties for anyone is never a fun process.