How to fight a prior DUI in another state in Arizona.
What will a prior DUI in another state do to a subsequent Arizona DUI?
If you have a prior DUI in another state within the last 7 years, no matter which state it’s from, it can affect what will happen to you in Arizona. Arizona law recognizes DUIs from other states if the out-of-state DUI would also be a violation under Arizona law. In other words, Arizona would treat both DUIs as if they happened here if the elements of each state’s DUI laws match up. While most DUIs match up, a skilled DUI attorney can potentially eliminate DUIs that would not violate Arizona law.
And if the government can prove the out-of-state DUI, you’ll be facing harsher penalties for a second time DUI. This means increased jail time and fines. The mandatory minimum for a second time DUI is 30 days jail. If you have two out-of-state DUIs within the last 7 years, then you’re facing aggravated DUI—also known as felony DUI—charges.
Will the government find out about my prior DUI in another state?
Prosecutors across Arizona will do some form of a background check on you. But sometimes they miss it. If they do, you’re one of the lucky ones. Most prosecutors catch the prior DUI because the government has access to the NCIC database. This database is private to most of the public. It contains arrests, convictions and case dispositions from jurisdictions across the United States in one database (which is scary given how many times government data has been hacked recently).
Chances are they’ll find out.
So how do I fight an out-of-state DUI?
Just because you have an out-of-state DUI doesn’t mean you’re defenseless. Some jurisdictions are not the best record keepers or don’t play nicely with other jurisdictions. The only way to know if you’re prior DUI matches an Arizona DUI is to obtain a copy of the prior from the State of conviction. Then, a good defense attorney will being the analysis for possible defenses. Questions a DUI attorney looks for are:
1) Were you actually convicted of a DUI or did you plead to lesser charges?
First, an attorney will look to see if you admitted guilt to something less than a DUI such as a reckless driving or speeding charge. Second, some states offer diversion for a first DUI offense. This means that if you completed required treatment or court ordered fines, the case was dismissed off your record. If any of those scenarios are true, the DUI might not be a prior at all and the analysis stops right here. If not, we look to see if the DUI matches.
2) Do the elements of the charge match an Arizona DUI?
This part is a little tricky. In short, a good attorney will analyze the statute for any deficiency that would disqualify it under Arizona law. For example, an out-of-state DUI might be missing an element of the equivalent Arizona crime. If so, the prior is deficient because it was not against the law here in Arizona.
3) Are the records sufficient to prove a prior DUI?
Even if the elements of the DUI match, the government might not be able to prove it was you that took the plea. This is the most common defense. Some states will take your fingerprint or other personal identifying information to tie you to the out-of-state DUI record. But other states are less meticulous record keepers.
If the government can’t prove its you, the prior is invalid. This happens a lot more than you might think. I’ve had cases where a person had their identity stolen. Imagine showing up to court for your first offense and seeing you have a criminal history. It’s a horrible feeling. It was mess but we sorted it out. That’s why it’s important to make sure the government proves its case and not let them rely on a piece of paper from an unknown third party.
4) Did the government miscalculate the date?
Priors only last for 7 years in Arizona. See A.R.S. §28-1382(E). Sometimes the government incorrectly calculates the dates to devastating effect. Prosecutors usually rely on reports generated through the NCIC database. And so, it’s important to take a look at the source documents, not a third party database run by the government. You’d be surprised how many errors happen in that database.
Should I hire an attorney if I have a prior DUI in another state?
If you’ve been charged with a DUI and you know you have a prior DUI, contact an attorney right away. The stakes are much higher when you have a prior DUI conviction. But when they’re out of state, you have a better chance of beating those priors than if they were here in Arizona. The older in time and father away the jurisdiction, the better shot you have of beating the out-of-state DUI.
Having an experienced DUI attorney makes all the difference. Don’t settle without knowing exactly what your options are. The prosecutor is not there to help you. They won’t tell if they they’ve ordered the priors or if they think there’s a deficiency in proving the prior. An experienced advocate on your side that’s willing to dig in and found out will give you the best shot.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Arizona, give The Heath Law Firm a call today. You can fight back and there is hope. Call us at 480-442-0489 or fill out the contact form below to get help right away.