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What is Automatic License Revocation or Suspension?

In Arizona, you must deal with two separate court systems if you are charged with a DUI – the criminal court system and the administrative court system. At Phoenix DUI Law, we have gathered together the most reliable team of lawyers in Phoenix to make sure your rights are fully preserved in both systems.

What does the criminal court system do?

The criminal court system will determine whether you are guilty of the crime of driving under the influence. The criminal court will also decide if you will serve jail time, and for how long. This court judge will set the amount of the fine you will pay and assess other costs. The criminal court can also impose additional penalties such as community service and rehabilitation programs. It also can impose licenses revocations, and/or the requirement of an ignition interlock device.

What does the administrative law system do?

As we will discuss in the next section, at the time you are stopped for a suspected DUI, it is possible your license may be automatically suspended and confiscated on the spot. You can request a hearing to challenge this revocation through the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT.) An administrative law judge (ALJ) will hear your case and determine if your license should be reinstated.

How can my license be revoked if I have not yet been convicted of a crime?

Automatic license suspensions (also known as automatic license revocations) seem to fly in the face of the premise of presumed innocent until proven guilty; however, these provisions are constitutional, and have been adopted by at least 42 states. A license suspension issued at the scene of the DUI stop is a civil penalty. Because it is not a criminal penalty, it does not violate the Constitutional concept of the presumption of innocence. The officer who makes the stop has the discretion to do several things. What happens next largely depends upon the suspect’s actions.

What if I refuse to submit to chemical testing?

As defined in section 28-1321 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, every driver in Arizona who operates a motor vehicle on a public road gives their implied consent to submit to chemical testing if they are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence. An individual who is arrested for DUI and refuses to submit to chemical testing will almost certainly receive an automatic administrative license revocation. Your license will be confiscated on the scene.

Any failure to expressly agree to take a chemical test or to successfully complete a test is considered a refusal under Arizona law. Additionally, if the driver is unconscious or otherwise in a condition that makes him or her incapable of refusing to submit to chemical testing, the driver will be deemed to have refused the test. This often happens when a driver is intoxicated to a level that they are unable to comprehend or consent to the request.

According to ARS § 28-1321(B), the license suspension periods in Arizona for refusing to submit to a blood, breath, or urine chemical test in Arizona are:

  • One year for a first refusal; and
  • Two years for a second or subsequent refusal within a period of 84 months.

What if I take the test, but fail?

The Arizona Revised Statutes § 28-1321 also states an individual who takes a chemical alcohol test, but fails to pass by having an alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher can receive a license suspension for 90 days. The officer may confiscate your license immediately. The officer can also give you a 15 day grace period during which you can drive under a temporary driving permit issued by the police officer at the scene.

If my license is confiscated at the scene, what should I do next?

It is crucial that you act promptly and retain legal counsel immediately. You only have 15 days after receiving the notice of suspension to appeal. You can submit a written request for a hearing to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) under ARS § 28-1321(F)(2). Again, you only have 15 days in which to do this.

What if I don’t file an appeal within the 15 days?

If you do not request a hearing, your license will be automatically suspended for 90 days on the 16th day after the incident. First time offenders can request a work permit after 30 days. After the suspension period, you will be required to get an ignition interlock device to have your license reinstated.

What if the criminal charges for the DUI are dropped or dismissed?

You can be charged with an administrative license suspension even if all criminal charges for DUI are dropped or dismissed. This action was designed to be in addition to and separate from the traditional criminal DUI judicial conviction penalties. Remember that this is a separate case from the criminal case, with separate authorities and separate rulings. This can be a very important influence upon the judicial procedures, but you must act very quickly if you wish to challenge the automatic license revocation.


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