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Arizona's Underage Drinking Laws & "Baby DUI"

University Police patrolling for underage drinkingArizona’s underage drinking laws address not only underage drinking, but specifically underage drinking and driving.  The consequences of a misdemeanor DUI in Arizona are already severe, but they are even worse if you’re under 21 years old.

Minor in Possession

A.R.S. 4-244(40) prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from having alcohol in their body. You don’t even need to be in possession of alcohol (e.g. beer in hand) to violate this law. If a chemical test shows the presence of alcohol in the body, you will likely be cited.  When first enacted in 2002, this law was often used to cite underage drivers and their passengers who traveled to Nogales, Mexico to drink legally but were then pulled over while driving back to Tucson on I-10.  Needless to say, going to Mexico to drink legally is not a safe or responsible strategy for minors looking to have a good time.  These days, it may not be a safe place to go anyway.  In any event, this law is now commonly enforced on the streets of Tucson and Pima County, particularly around the university area, so be careful.

Under 21 Driving With Alcohol in Body

ARS, 4-244(33), often referred to as the “baby DUI” statute, prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while there is any alcohol in their body. So, if you under 21 and are suspected of driving under the influence in Arizona, you will typically be charged with both a regular DUI and a baby DUI.

The baby DUI is even more difficult to defend because the state is not required to prove the existence of any particular amount of alcohol, or even that the person was impaired. The state need only prove that alcohol was present in the body. Of course, the Constitution still applies, so there are still numerous legal defenses that can be asserted in these cases. That’s a good thing, because a baby DUI also carries additional consequences that could be considered more severe than those of a regular misdemeanor DUI. For example, a conviction under A.R.S. 2-44(33) requires a 2-year suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license!

Serious Consequences

The Arizona underage drinking laws can have a particularly significant impact on university students, who are commonly charges with these violations. Not only are violations considered criminal convictions, which can haunt students long after they graduate, but the inability to drive for two years can make it very difficult to maintain employment, attend classes, and participate in extracurricular activities. Additionally, many universities have their own internal rules for dealing with criminal and DUI convictions that can result in suspension or even expulsion under certain circumstances.

If you are facing either of these charges in Arizona, it is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in this area. An attorney can identify legal issues and defenses appropriate to the case and may be able to mitigate any consequences.

* This blog is published by Tucson DUI and criminal defense lawyer Nathan D. Leonardo. Nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein does not constitute legal advice, but is for general information purposes only. If you have a legal question, you can contact us online or call (520) 314-4125.

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