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First Time DUI Offense & Your Right to a Jury Trial

Posted by Shawn Hamp | May 06, 2012 | 0 Comments

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The right to a jury trial for a first time DUI offense has been restored in Arizona.  Arizona House Bill 2284 was approved by the Arizona Legislature on April 9th, 2012 and signed by Governor Jan Brewer on April 11th, 2012 by emergency order.  The new law goes into effect immediately and is retroactive to December 31st, 2011.  A full text of the house bill is available under this link.

Since the beginning of January 2012 drivers who were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) had lost their right to a trial by jury in Arizona.  Arizona's DUI laws were changed when the AZ Legislature approved Senate Bill 1200 back in April 2011 and took effect on January 1st, 2012.  Only more serious DUI offenders with prior convictions or “extreme” blood alcohol levels were guaranteed by statute a right to a jury trial in Arizona.  Despite mandatory jail provisions and fines, first time offenders were no longer guaranteed the right to a jury trial for misdemeanor DUI offenses.

Since the law went into effect many constitutional and legal challenges had been raised by criminal defense attorneys and lawyers on behalf of their clients.  Many legislatures expressed regret or lack of knowledge that they had voted to approve dismantling the basic right to jury trial in DUI offenses.  Prosecutorial agencies had lobbied for the change in laws for many years.

In a house committee hearing, Representative David Burnell Smith explained the rationale for restoring Defendant's rights for a jury trial in first time DUI offense cases when introducing his bill to committee (see video),”It has caused a lot of problems because if you have an extreme DUI and a first-time DUI, the judge hears the DUI case, the jury hears the extreme case.”  The representative further explained, at a House Judiciary Committee held on February 16th, 2012, “If you file a motion, you get the extreme dismissed, you'd still not get a jury trial. It's confusing out there. There's constitutional issues, back and forth motions.”

The law was made retroactive for offenses committed since January 1st, 2012.  Unfortunately for defendants who have already  plead guilty or no contest to a DUI offense in that time period are specifically excluded in the retroactively section of the new law.  A.R.S. 28-1381 Sec. 2 (B).  For all others, the law was enacted under emergency provisions and is effective immediately.

The Law Office of Shawn B. Hamp is focused to defending DUI, Drug & criminal charges in Arizona, within Northwestern Arizona and Mohave County including the cities of Kingman, Bullhead City, and Lake Havasu City Arizona.

This post was intended to provide general information only and is not intended as specific legal advice. You should not rely upon this information alone, but should consult legal counsel regarding the application of the laws and regulations discussed and as applied to your specific case or circumstances.

About the Author

Shawn Hamp

President and lead counsel for the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp, P.C. (An Arizona Professional Corporation), Shawn Hamp has practiced law for more than 15 years with an emphasis in criminal law. An experienced trial attorney, Mr. Hamp has been lead counsel in hundreds of criminal trials and court...

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