Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Dane Perikly

Director of Virtual Services & DUI Education

Last Update on May 1, 2024

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Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that jeopardizes the safety of everyone on the road. When a person operates a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, their ability to drive responsibly is significantly diminished, increasing the likelihood of devastating accidents.

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, particularly a first-time DUI, it’s important to know how DUI works. The DUI process can be intricate and daunting. Knowing what to expect after a DUI arrest is extremely important.

DUI Laws

Understanding and following DUI (driving under the influence) laws is essential for keeping everyone safe. These laws, which set the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit at 0.08% in most of the United States,1 define what a DUI entails and help enforce responsible driving behaviors. Studies have shown that enforcing this BAC limit has significantly reduced alcohol-related traffic deaths.

If you’re charged with DUI, it’s really important to know what you can expect from the DUI process in your state, whether it’s Arizona or elsewhere. The difference between DUI and DWI (driving while intoxicated) may vary, but both can result in serious consequences, especially for a first-time DUI.

Remember, the act of operating a vehicle while impaired is illegal and puts lives at risk. If you’re facing a DUI charge, seek guidance to navigate the legal process and protect your rights.

It’s the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream.
In AZ, DUI penalties are harsh: mandatory jail time, steep fines & fees, license suspension, vehicle impoundment & more. The state takes impaired driving seriously to deter offenders & protect public safety on the roads.
Arizona has the toughest DUI laws in the US, implementing all recommended regulations like sobriety checkpoints and mandatory ignition interlock devices for all convicted drivers, according to MADD.2

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is an important measure used to determine the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, which helps assess your level of impairment. This is particularly important when it comes to understanding what a DUI (driving under the influence) entails. Here are some essential points to keep in mind:

  • Even if your BAC is below 0.08%, which is the legal limit in most states in the United States, it can still impair your driving abilities. Even if you’re not legally considered driving under the influence, your ability to operate a vehicle safely can be compromised.
  • When your BAC reaches 0.08%, there is a significant impairment in various driving-related skills.3 That’s why it’s important to understand what you need to know about the effects of alcohol on your body and how it can lead to a DUI charge.

If you find yourself arrested for a DUI, especially if it’s a first-time DUI, understanding BAC is essential for navigating the DUI process in your state. Whether you’re charged with DUI, knowing how BAC affects your driving can make a significant difference in your case.

To avoid the consequences of a DUI arrest, it’s essential to recognize how any amount of alcohol can impact your driving capabilities. The difference between DUI and DWI (driving while intoxicated) may vary by state, but the act of operating a vehicle. At the same time, impaired is illegal and dangerous regardless of the terminology used.

DUI Checkpoints

DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoints are fully authorized by law in the United States, which grants police the authority to conduct brief stops and assess drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. This legal backing ensures that checkpoints operate within the bounds of the law, respecting individuals’ rights while prioritizing public safety.
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Field Sobriety Test

Field sobriety tests are essential tools used by law enforcement to assess a driver’s physical and cognitive abilities on the spot when suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). These tests aim to quickly determine if a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, providing a preliminary basis for further action, such as an arrest for a DUI. Though not without controversy, their role in the DUI process in the United States is significant.

  • Objective: Serve as immediate assessments to gauge impairment levels through physical and cognitive performance evaluations, helping officers determine a DUI suspect’s capabilities.
  • Common Tests: Include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk-and-Turn, and the One-Leg Stand, each targeting specific impairment signs that can indicate the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence.
  • Controversy: Criticisms often focus on the subjective nature of the tests and their reliability as true indicators of impairment, raising questions about what you need to know when facing a DUI charge based on these tests.
  • Enforcement Role: Despite debates, these tests are a frontline tool for officers, guiding decisions on arrests or additional testing, which can be especially important for a first-time DUI offense or when determining the difference between DUI and DWI in a given state.


Despite their imperfections, field sobriety tests are for keeping roads safe from impaired drivers. They provide law enforcement with immediate, actionable information that can prevent potentially dangerous situations before they escalate. As part of a broader DUI detection and prevention strategy, these tests are invaluable in the ongoing battle against drunk driving, whether you’re in Arizona or any other state.

Got a DUI? Learn about our DUI screenings and classes in Arizona!

Breathalyzer Tests

Breathalyzer tests are pivotal enforcement tools in the battle against DUI (driving under the influence) offenses. By offering instant BAC (blood alcohol concentration) readings directly at the roadside, they streamline the process of assessing a driver’s impairment level, which is very important in determining what a DUI entails. The immediate feedback is instrumental in law enforcement efforts and legal proceedings, especially when someone is arrested for a DUI.

  • Instant BAC Readings: Breathalyzers quickly determine the amount of alcohol in a person’s system, providing a clear indication of impairment, which is essential for understanding what you need to know about the DUI process in your state.
  • Legal Significance: The correlation between breathalyzer results and blood tests is critical, as it supports the accuracy of roadside readings in court, particularly when facing a DUI charge in the United States.
  • Enforcement Tool: These devices are key in upholding DUI laws, allowing officers to make informed decisions on the spot, such as whether to arrest someone for operating a vehicle while under the influence.
  • Study Confirmation: Research underscores the importance of breathalyzer tests in accurately assessing impairment for legal purposes,4 which can be especially relevant for a first-time DUI or when determining the difference between DUI and DWI in a given state.

Breathalyzer tests have fundamentally changed the dynamics of DUI enforcement, offering a rapid and reliable method for determining impairment. Their role extends beyond the roadside, contributing to the legal process and helping ensure that DUI laws are effectively applied. If you find yourself arrested for a DUI based on a breathalyzer test, it’s extremely important to understand what you can expect from the DUI court process in your state.

Quick Tip

Can you go to jail for a DUI in AZ?

In Arizona, receiving a DUI conviction can result in jail time, but there may be alternative sentencing options available. According to legislation passed in 2012, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content between 0.08% and 0.15% face a minimum of 10 days in jail. However, the court may allow for a reduced sentence or alternative forms of sentencing in some cases.

Understanding DUI Process

The DUI process in the United States is a structured approach to handling incidents of suspected driving under the influence (DUI). The sequence typically begins with an arrest for a DUI based on observable signs of impairment or failing a field sobriety or breathalyzer test, which is what a DUI often entails.

Following the arrest, the individual is booked, which includes recording personal information and the alleged offense. This is an important step in the DUI process, as it formally documents the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence.

The final stage often involves court proceedings, where the case details are examined, and a judgment is made. For those facing a DUI charge, especially if it’s a first-time DUI. The court will consider various factors, such as the difference between DUI and DWI in the state where the offense occurred and the case’s specific circumstances.

Key Takeaways

DUI Penalties

The aftermath of a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction reveals a complex web of penalties, each designed not just to punish but also to deter future offenses and uphold public safety. The legal system imposes a variety of penalties on those found guilty of the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence. Still, the true extent of the consequences often surpasses the immediate legal ramifications.

  • Legal Penalties: At the forefront, individuals may face fines, jail time, and the suspension or revocation of their driving privileges. These penalties vary widely depending on the jurisdiction, the severity of the offense, and whether it’s a first-time DUI or a repeat offense. Understanding what you need to know about the DUI process in your state is essential when facing a DUI charge.
  • Long-Term Impact: The impact of a DUI conviction doesn’t end with legal penalties. It can profoundly affect one’s personal life, straining relationships and social standing. Professionally, the conviction can hinder job prospects, especially in careers requiring driving or strict background checks. 
  • Financial Burdens: Beyond fines, the repercussions include increased insurance rates, legal fees, and the costs associated with DUI education programs or installing ignition interlock devices. These financial burdens can be particularly challenging for those charged with DUI in the United States.
  • Rehabilitative Measures: Many jurisdictions incorporate rehabilitative programs as part of the penalty, aiming to educate offenders on the dangers of impaired driving and reduce the likelihood of future offenses. This is especially relevant when considering the difference between DUI and DWI in various states.


The comprehensive approach to DUI penalties reflects the legal system’s commitment to reducing impaired driving incidents. By extending the consequences to various aspects of an individual’s life, the penalties underscore the serious implications of DUI offenses, reinforcing the importance of responsible driving behaviors for the safety and well-being of the entire community.

Arrested for DUI in Arizona?

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License Suspension

One of the most immediate consequences of a DUI (driving under the influence) offense is the suspension of the driver’s license. This action underscores the seriousness with which the law views the act of operating a vehicle while impaired, serving as a punishment and a deterrent to prevent future violations. To regain driving privileges, individuals must navigate the DUI process in their state, which typically requires demonstrating a commitment to sobriety and adherence to all legal mandates.

  • Emphasis on Prevention: Suspending a license directly addresses the risk by temporarily removing the offender’s ability to drive legally, aiming to prevent potential harm to the public.
  • Reinstatement Process: To get their license back, individuals often need to fulfill specific conditions, which may include completing a DUI education program, undergoing substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and providing evidence of financial responsibility. The process can vary depending on whether it’s a first-time DUI or a repeat offense and whether you’re charged with DUI in the United States.
  • Sober Living Proof: Proving one’s fitness to drive again involves showing evidence of sober living, such as regular sobriety checks or engaging in sobriety support programs. These can be crucial in showing your dedication to preventing future occurrences of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Legal Compliance: The process also requires compliance with other court-ordered requirements, underscoring the need for legal adherence to regain driving privileges. An important aspect of what you can expect after a DUI arrest is essential to understand the difference between DUI and DWI in your state.

Through license suspension, the legal system emphasizes the importance of safe and sober driving, making it clear that DUI offenses carry significant consequences, not only to penalize but also to rehabilitate and educate offenders on the importance of responsible driving.

Ignition Interlock Devices

Ignition interlock devices have emerged as a key tool in the effort to curb repeat offenses of driving under the influence (DUI). By requiring a driver to provide a breath sample free of alcohol before the vehicle can start, these devices offer a direct method to ensure sobriety behind the wheel, which is important for preventing the act of operating a vehicle while impaired.

  • Preventive Mechanism: The primary function of ignition interlock devices is to prevent a vehicle from starting if any alcohol level is detected in the driver’s breath. 
  • Reducing Repeat Offenses: The introduction of these devices has been linked to a noticeable decrease in repeat DUI offenses, highlighting their effectiveness as a deterrent. 
  • Role in DUI Enforcement: Their increasing use represents a significant shift in DUI enforcement strategies, moving towards integrating technology to enhance public safety. This is particularly relevant when considering the difference between DUI and DWI in various states.
  • Recognition in the Legal System: The effectiveness and utility of ignition interlock devices in preventing DUI incidents have gained recognition among policymakers, law enforcement, and the legal community, leading to broader adoption and more stringent requirements for their use. 

As part of a comprehensive approach to DUI prevention, ignition interlock devices are invaluable assets. They blend technology with enforcement to create safer roads for everyone. Find yourself facing a DUI charge. Understanding what you can expect regarding ignition interlock requirements can be important in navigating the legal process and taking steps toward rehabilitation.

DUI Defense Strategies

Facing DUI (driving under the influence) charges can be overwhelming, but understanding the potential legal defense strategies can significantly impact the outcome. These strategies are essential for those accused of operating a vehicle while under the influence, emphasizing the critical role of skilled legal representation in navigating DUI proceedings.

  • Challenging the Traffic Stop: Arguing that the initial traffic stop was unlawful or lacked reasonable suspicion can undermine the prosecution’s case. 
  • Questioning Test Accuracy: The defense may focus on the accuracy and administration of field sobriety tests, breathalyzers, or blood tests, highlighting any procedural errors or equipment malfunctions. 
  • Medical Conditions: Some defenses may cite medical conditions that could mimic signs of impairment or affect breathalyzer results, challenging the evidence of intoxication.
  • Rights Violations: Highlighting any violations of the defendant’s legal rights during the arrest or questioning process can be very helpful in the defense. 
  • Legal Representation: The complexities of DUI cases and the nuances of the law underscore the importance of having knowledgeable legal counsel to navigate the proceedings and advocate on the defendant’s behalf. 

These strategies aim to mitigate the consequences of DUI charges and ensure that the legal process is fair and just. Effective legal representation is paramount in exploring these defenses and achieving the best outcome in DUI cases.

How We Can Help

Driving under the influence is a serious offense with far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the legal realm. From the moment of arrest for a DUI to the potential long-term impact on one’s personal and professional life, the ramifications of impaired driving are profound. It’s really important to recognize that the consequences of a DUI arrest are not limited to fines and jail time. The act of operating a vehicle while under the influence can lead to license suspensions, financial burdens, and significant strain on personal relationships and professional prospects.

At Cornerstone Healing Center, we understand the challenges and uncertainties of a DUI arrest. Our team of knowledgeable professionals is here to provide you with the support, resources, and guidance you need during this difficult time. From legal assistance to counseling and rehabilitation services, we are committed to helping you navigate the road to recovery and ensuring you have the tools and support necessary to move forward.

If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, we encourage you to contact Cornerstone Healing Center. Our dedicated staff is here to listen, understand, and help you take the first steps towards a brighter future. Remember, a DUI charge does not define you, and with the right support and guidance, you can overcome this challenge and emerge stronger than before.

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Author & Reviewers

dane perikly dui writer headshot

Dane Perikly


Dane is the Director of Virtual services at Cornerstone. He contributes guides on DUI education so that you can understand all there is to know about DUI charges, education, and the overall process of meeting Arizona requirements after a DUI. He cares deeply about raising awareness of the dangers of DUI and illustrating the impact on victims and on those charged. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges, he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of conditions.

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