A DUI can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. For your run-of-the-mill first DUI, whether you have a blood alcohol concentration just over the legal limit or a blood alcohol concentration three times the legal limit, although the mandatory jail sentences differ, the charge will be a class 1 misdemeanor. However, a regular DUI can become a felony and be considered “aggravated” if, among other things, you had a suspended license, two prior DUIs in the past seven years, or a person under fifteen years of age in the car. A DUI that’s aggravated because of a suspended license or two prior DUIs in the past seven years is a class 4 felony, and a DUI that’s aggravated because there was a child in the car is a class 6 felony.
To me, the relative seriousness of those crimes are not reflected by their classes. The DUI that seems the worst to me is one with a child in the car, yet it is the same class of felony as personal possession of marijuana. What I would consider to be the next worst kind of DUI would be one with an incredibly high blood alcohol concentration, as it would pose the greatest danger to others. In most instances, that would not even be felony.
I can understand why getting three DUIs in seven years could arguably be the worst, as it shows a pattern of breaking the law and a problem with substance abuse and driving, but the suspended-license aggravated DUI makes no sense to me. The problem is that, in the statute, suspension, cancellation, revocation or refusal specifically means any suspension, cancellation, revocation or refusal. That means you could get your license suspended for something unrelated to DUI, like failure to pay child support, and suddenly be facing a class 4 felony. That’s the same class of felony as robbery or forgery, and it doesn’t matter if your blood alcohol concentration was right around the legal limit.
To me, the various classes of DUI in Arizona appear to indicate that what matters to lawmakers isn’t public safety or preventing recidivism, but enforcing administrative and licensing provisions. Why else would Arizona’s laws make having your license suspended for something non-criminal or even technical in nature more of an aggravating factor than directly endangering the life of a child?