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Don't take the chance: AZ cops are out on DUI checks

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Everybody in Arizona knows that our state is the toughest in the nation when it comes to DUI laws. If you're pulled over to be checked for DUI--which includes impaired driving caused by drug use, prescription drug use (including medical marijuana), or plain old tiredness--and found to be compromised, you are in for quite a ride.

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You can't plea bargain this one in Arizona. So, if you are dopey enough to get caught driving under the influence, here's what you could face:

  • A first-time conviction comes out to at least $1460 in fines that include the DUI base fine, the extra DUI assessment given after you flunk the initial one, a DUI surcharge fine, a probation surcharge, and the prison construction assessment.
  • You will also spend at least 8 hours in jail and possibly up to 10 days.
  • Your license will be suspended from 90 to 360 days and the court could order a ignition interlock device on your car That comes on your dime, too.

Ready to hear about the second conviction for driving under the influence? Fines alone will total $2160, 30-90 days in jail, 30 days of community service, license suspension for one year, mandatory ignition interlock (again on your buck), and whatever drug or alcohol screening and treatment the court orders.

Good luck trying to find someone who will insure you, too.

Ask Mark Grace, who has apparently undergone a successful rehabilitation after his second conviction for driving under the influence, about how "lenient" Arizona is with celebrity DUI arrests. Grace completed a four-month sentence in Tent City but was permitted to go to his day job as a spring training coach for the Diamondbacks. (The team had already fired him from his broadcast job.) Nights were spent with Sheriff Joe's pals.

So--what should a smart person like you do this New Year's Eve?

  • Call a cab. It's cheaper than a DUI and you get to keep your license and insurance. Some restaurants and bars have discount deals with local cab companies. Your friendly bartender will be happy to make arrangements.
  • Get a hotel or motel room. It's safer and cheaper than a DUI conviction. Plus, even a cheesy motel is better than jail and probably quieter, even on New Year's Eve.
  • AAA of Arizona will offer free rides from 6 pm December 31 through 6 am January 1 through its Tipsy Tow program. 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357). A 10 mile tow and ride is free. After that, standard AAA rates apply. Again, it's cheaper than paying for all those driving under the influence costs.
  • Light rail will be open til 2 am and is free from 7 pm thanks to a program from the city of Phoenix and (ahem) Coor's.
  • Designate a designated driver; many restaurants and bars will serve unlimited nonalcoholic beverages to designated driver. Not long ago, yours truly enjoyed many Diet Cokes while watching The Crumblies at Flicka's in Scottsdale. I didn't sleep for a week after all that caffeine but my friends were safely deposited that night and I could tell myself what a mensch I am.

Since Thanksgiving, 3,000 people have been arrested for driving under the influence in Arizona. There are about 7,600 police on DUI duty this holiday season and a lot of them are in unmarked cars and trucks. So do the right thing and either abstain (from mind-altering substances) or make alternate arrangements.

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