What is Impaired to the Slightest Degree?
Suppose a driver over 21 with a non-commercial license is discovered to be operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of.08 or above. In that case, they may face a typical DUI charge in Arizona. But other situations in Arizona might result in a DUI as well. Another regulation intended to penalize drivers who are “impaired to the least degree” has been passed in Arizona. This considers a person’s driving abilities in addition to their actual BAC.
In Arizona, you can be convicted of DUI if you physically control a vehicle while impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol. The state is only required to prove that you were driving or had absolute physical control of the car, that there was alcohol or drug intoxication, and that you were going. At the same time, your ability was impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol or drugs. No breath or blood test is required to prove someone is damaged to the slightest degree, and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) does not have to be .08 or greater.
Arizona A.R.S. § 28-1381(A)(1) – DUI under .08%
Prosecutors attempt to prove impairment by police testimony regarding Field Sobriety Tests (FST) or observations of impairment. For example, a police officer’s testimony that he observed the defendant had “bloodshot eyes and slurred speech” may be used by the prosecutor to prove impairment. If your BAC is .05 or less, there is a presumption that you are not under the influence of intoxicating liquor. If your BAC is more significant than .05 and less than .08, there is no presumption that you are impaired or not impaired. Still, the evidence of your BAC may be used with other reliable evidence in determining your guilt or innocence.
What does, in the slightest degree, mean?
ARS 28-1381 states that it is illegal to drive while “drunk to the slightest degree” under the following circumstances:
- In this situation, the driver has genuine physical control over the car; and
- While the driver is impaired by drink, drugs, or both, alone or in combination.
- While a restricted substance impairs the motorist; or
- When driving or having actual physical control of a vehicle, the driver is determined to have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of.08% or above from drinking while doing so or before. This can happen up to two hours later.
Police must have “probable cause” before arresting for DUI when the driver is slightly drunk. The police need a reasonable cause, which calls for solid proof. In the absence of .08% or higher DUI breath or blood test results, they would need evidence such as a failed Field Sobriety Test, the driver admitting to being intoxicated, breath or blood test results showing a trace of alcohol or the presence of any drug that could have caused a mild impairment to their driving, and so on. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution to show that a driver was even slightly intoxicated when operating a vehicle.
Reacting to Police Field Sobriety Requests
The slightest degree threshold amply demonstrates the need for Arizona drivers to exercise their legal right to remain sober and decline a field sobriety test.
The slightest degree standard and field sobriety assessments are invariably based on an officer’s subjective observations of the driver’s behavior.
The decision of an officer may be based on observations like the following because this standard is not objective:
- Unsafe driving
- slow motor function
- Field sobriety test results
- What is thought to smell like alcohol
- driving manner
- Unsteady speech
- bloodshot or watery eyes
According to Arizona law, the least severe misdemeanor offense, an impaired to a slight degree infraction, is handled as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Even a misdemeanor DUI conviction for a first offense can lead to jail time and long-lasting repercussions restricting mobility and future opportunities.
ARS DUI Slightest Degree DUI Penalties
This charge states that it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor-releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or any combination of booze, drugs, or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to any degree, according to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. This conviction, also known as the Impaired to the Slightest Degree charge, might have a variety of repercussions.
This consists of the following:
- Maximum of 180 days in prison
- Thousands of dollars minimum in fines, fees, and incarceration expenses
- Mandatory drug and alcohol testing
- Mandatory drug or alcohol abuse counseling
- Suspension of the driver’s license for 90 days (first 30 days no driving, following 60 tight restrictions)
- The expense of renting an interlock device for a period of six months to a year fitted to a vehicle
- Maximum of five years probation
- Driver’s license may receive up to 8 Motor Vehicle Division points and completion of Traffic
- Survival School is necessary.
- alteration of insurance coverage or cost increase
- obligatory civic engagement