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New Arizona DUI Laws

New Arizona DUI Laws

Jessica Coomes | The Arizona Republic | May. 16, 2007 12:00 AM

Even first-time drunken drivers would have to test their breath before starting their cars if Gov. Janet Napolitano signs a bill the Legislature approved Tuesday.

The measure, coupled with other regulations passed this year by the Legislature, would make Arizona DUI laws among the toughest in the country, said Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, who sponsored the bill.

New Mexico is the only state to require ignition-interlock devices in the vehicles of all DUI offenders, including those convicted for the first time. Alcohol-related fatalities dropped 12 percent there between 2004 and 2005, the first year after the law passed; it is something Rachel O'Connor, New Mexico's driving while intoxicated czar, attributes to interlocks and other legislation targeting drunken drivers.

Arizona lawmakers hope fatalities also drop here, where 492 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2005.

The Arizona bill passed the House and Senate with little opposition. Bill Weigele, president of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, said the threat of breath-testing devices would keep social drinkers from spending money on alcohol, thereby harming the liquor industry.

"This is not solving the problem for the carnage on the highway," Weigele said. "The carnage on the highway is being caused by the user-abuser, not the social (drinker)."

Arizona monitors about 7,000 repeat and extreme DUI offenders with interlocks, and 14,000 first-time offenders could be required to have interlocks if previous conviction trends hold true, said Cydney DeModica, a spokeswoman for the state's Motor Vehicle Division. She said the MVD will need additional staffing for the increased caseload.

Those who are required to have interlock devices must blow into a machine each time they start their cars for a year, and their blood-alcohol content cannot be over 0.03 percent. State law says it is illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol content over 0.08 percent. The Senate passed Senate Bill 1029 on Tuesday, 26-2.

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