Craig Rosenstein 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Rollercoaster of Rights: DUI Jury Trial Eligibility in 2012 In Arizona, a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and $2,500 in fines. However, the practical reality is that misdemeanor crimes rarely garner such extreme sentences on first, second, third, or even forth offenses. One exception is in Arizona DUI cases, where a second offense DUI conviction can carry a minimum sentence of 180 days in jail. It is for exactly that reason that Arizona DUI defense attorneys became alarmed at the passing of SB 1200 in 2011, and began vigorously challenging one of its most significant alterations to Arizona law: the removal of the statutory right to a jury trial in some Arizona DUI cases. It is important to understand that in Arizona, the right to a jury trial in DUI cases had thus far been a statutory one. The DUI statute at hand required a judge to inform a defendant of his or her right to a jury trial at the arraignment. Thus, Arizona DUI defendants always had the right to proceed to a jury trial. A portion of SB 1200 changed that, and the following alteration was made to the statute: “At the arraignment, the court shall inform the defendant that if the state alleges a prior conviction the defendant may request a trial by jury and that the request, if made, shall be granted.” A.R.S. Section 28-1381(F) (emphasis added). This small addition to the statute thus removed the right to a jury trial for: (1) those accused of first offense non-extreme DUIs (which would include those persons accused of driving or operating a vehicle with a BAC up to a .149), (2) those accused of first offense DUI drugs (which includes those driving with illicit drugs or their metabolites, or even prescription drugs in some cases, in his or her system), and (3) those accused of first offense driving while impaired to the slightest degree. After SB 1200 went into effect on January 1, 2012, individuals accused by the State of these offenses no longer had a statutory right to a jury trial. Interestingly enough, one of SB 1200’s stated goals was to reduce the time that an ignition interlock device was required to be used by certain convicted DUI offenders. The bill also took on the task of correcting certain Arizona MVD procedural rules that are applied when an individual was arrested and/or convicted of a DUI in Arizona. It was, however, never intended to test a DUI defendant’s constitutional right to a jury trial. But test it did. As predicted, immediately after the law went into effect on January 1, 2012, many Arizona DUI defendants began to challenge the change that the law made regarding jury trial eligibility. The major argument made against the change in the law was that an Arizona DUI defendant has a constitutional right to a jury trial, using the analysis set forth in the case of Derendal v. Griffith, 209 Ariz. 416 (2005). Another argument raised by the DUI defendants was that the change in the law would allow jurors in certain DUI cases to know that the defendant had a prior conviction simply because a jury trial was taking place, even though it is almost always precluded to introduce a defendant’s prior DUI conviction in a trial. Of course, numerous other arguments were also made against the law. These challenges were moving through the justice system when HB 2284 was passed by both houses in a short session of the Arizona legislature, and signed by Governor Brewer on April 11, 2012. This new law re-instituted jury trial eligibility to all DUI defendants in Arizona. The law was made retroactive to January 1, 2012, and ended what would have been a costly and time-consuming battle over jury trial eligibility for those accused of driving under the influence in Arizona.
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