The Arizona DUI Process | What Can I Expect?

The Arizona DUI Process can be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with the process. Here is a step by step guide to that process.

The Arizona DUI Process

Arizona DUI Process- I received a Citation, what next?

Misdemeanor DUI cases often start with a police officer issuing a citation.  The citation advises the arrested person of the charges and a first court appearance date. That date is the arraignment. At the arraignment the defendant can plea either guilty not guilty. If the defendant has a private attorney, they may not have to appear at the arraignment.  If the defendant pleads not guilty plea the judge sets the case to a first pre-trial conference date.

DUI Process- No Citation or Charges filed, what now?

Some police departments do not issue citations when the only chemical test is a blood test. Those departments include the Gilbert Police Department, the Maricopa and Pinal Sheriff’s Departments and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Those departments may arrest someone for DUI and then released with them no citation. Testing blood samples for alcohol and drugs can take several months. Once they have the test results those departments send the results to the prosecutor. The prosecutor then decides whether to file charges in court not not. A prosecutor must file misdemeanor DUI charges in court within 1 year of the date of the incident. The court then usually send a summons to the defendant to appear at an arraignment. If the defendant fails to appear at the arraignment an arrest warrant is issued. If you have been arrested but not charged, you can periodically check court records at Maricopa County Justice Courts and Arizona Supreme Court’s Public Assess.

Should I hire a Private Attorney for my DUI?

Can I represent myself?

Anyone can represent themselves on any misdemeanor crime charge.  When arrested for DUI the most important goal is to minimize the the effects on you and your family. If you can do that yourself then you do not need a lawyer. To best represent yourself you will have to be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get best the plea offer. If that does not work then you must be ready to represent yourself in a jury trial. You will have to deal with the MVD, which often makes mistakes. You will have to anticipate and minimize, all of the possible effects of the DUI on you and your family. Keep in mind the judge, prosecutor and MVD staff may be very polite and cordial, but their job is not to help you. They do not represent you and cannot give you legal and or advice on other problems you may encounter.

 Should I get a Public Defender?

Arizona’s public defenders are better than those in most other states. Arizona public defenders are well trained and know their way around in a courtroom. A public defender’s job is to represent you in court.  Their job does not include do not helping with other problems such as MVD licensing issues. Their job does not include help other collateral  consequences, like employment problems. If you are only concerned about what happens in court then a public defender can best help you. If you want to lessen all the effects of a DUI charge on you and your family then you should get a private attorney.

What Should I Consider When Hiring a Private Attorney?

If you hire a private attorney make sure the attorney will do more for you than a public defender, as many private attorneys do not.   Many private attorneys are only concerned about court proceedings just  like public defenders. Some do not represent their clients in MVD licensing hearings. Many times a DUI case has to be set to trial to get a better result.  Many private attorneys charge their clients extra trial fees to discourage setting cases to trial as it means more work for them. In those cases clients may not be getting the best outcome. Many times you can only get a better results by setting cases to trial. Make sure the attorney does not charge extra for a jury trial. Many private lawyers stop representing defendants at the last court date. They refuse to help their clients with what happens after court, such as with the MVD. A private lawyer who will not help you after court is doing nothing more than a public defender would.

Questions to Ask Private DUI Attorneys

Looking for a DUI Lawyer? Here are questions you should ask about their fee agreements?
  • DUI Attorney Cost- Is it an hourly or flat fee agreement?
  • DUI Attorney Cost- If an hourly agreement, how much per hour?
  • If a flat fee does the agreement say you can discharge the lawyer and request a full or partial refund?
  • If a flat fee is it a full flat fee or a partial fee agreement?
  • If a full flat fee agreement does it include a jury trial? if not, why not?
  • If a full flat fee agreement, does it include all MVD hearings?
  • If a partial flat fee agreement, how much is the trial fee and is it a trial fee for each trial?
  • If a partial flat fee agreement, does it include all MVD hearings and if not what is the those fees?
  • Does the agreement call for paying interest on the balance due?
  • DUI Attorney Cost- Are there late fees?
  • Does the agreement have a cost to change the monthly payment amounts or method of payment?

My DUI Flat Fee Agreement- Affordable Payment Plans

I offer one all inclusive DUI flat fee agreement with

  • All MVD licensing hearings and problems
  • All court proceedings including jury trials
  • Help with court ordered and MVD sentencing requirements
  • Help with other collateral consequences.

DUI Process- What happens when I go to court for a DUI?


An arraignment is first court appearance for Arizona misdemeanor DUI. The defendant must appear at the arraignment. If the defendant has a private attorney they may not have go to the arraignment. The defendant can then enter a not guilty plea or if the court permits, a guilty plea.  If the defendant pleads not guilty the judge sets the case a first pre-trial conference date. The judge may set conditions of release. The judge may say the defendant does not have to appear for pretrial conference. If requested the judge the may appoint a public defender.

 Pretrial Procedures

The second court date is the first pretrial conference date. The defendant may or may not have to appear in court.  At the conference, the prosecutor gives the defendant’s attorney the “discovery” or “disclosure”. The discovery includes the police reports. The prosecutor often makes a plea offer as well.
At defendant can plead guilty at the conference or ask for more time to investigate the case. If the defendant’s attorney requests more time then they can get more discovery. That discovery can include blood testing records as well as body camera videos.

There are several ways to resolve the court case.

  • The defendant may plead guilty by accepting a plea offer or plead guilty without an offer.
  • Set the case to a jury trial. The defendant’s attorney may has the court to preclude the prosecutor from using certain evidence at trial. This is done using a motion to suppress.

Jury Trial

If a case is not resolved by a motion do dismiss or a change of plea then the case is set to a jury trial.  At the trial a 6 person jury must  unanimously decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of each of the charges.

DUI Process- How long will my case take?

Arizona Misdemeanor DUI cases can take 2 months to over 1 year to resolve. Several factors can affect that time period. Those include:
  • Which court
  • How busy the court’s calendar is
  • The facts of the case

DUI Process- How will my DUI case be resolved?

A DUI case is decided by a motion to dismiss, a plea agreement or a jury trial.

There are several ways to decide a DUI case. Those include:

  • The defendant may plead guilty by accepting a plea offer or plead guilty without an offer.
  • Set the case to a jury trial. The defendant’s attorney may has the court to prevent the prosecutor from using certain evidence at trial. This is done using a motion to suppress.

What can happen to a DUI case in part depends on the practices of the particular court and prosecutor.  For example some prosecutors make Reckless Driving offers and some do not. Most but not all courts now offer Home Detention for some any required jail time.  The Arizona Guide to Misdemeanor DUIs describes what can happen in various courts.

How long does it take to get blood Samples tested?

How long testing takes depends on which agency the arresting officer is with, is the test for alcohol only or drugs and what crime lab is doing the testing.

Some Arizona municipal and county police departments analyze DUI blood samples for alcohol. Those departments include the Phoenix Police  and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Departments.  Many departments send their blood samples to other crime labs, such as the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Lab for analysis. Most departments send samples to be tested to drugs to other crimes, most commonly to the DPS. The Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab does its own testing.

Testing samples for alcohol and and drugs is done in batches of up to 60 tests at a time. Crime labs often wait until they have at least 25 samples to test at a time. If the crime lab serves a police agency which does not do many DUI cases it takes time to get enough samples to put together a batch to test. Alcohol testing can be done much quicker than drug testing because more samples are tested for alcohol alone. The Phoenix Crime Lab tests samples within a few days of when it receives the sample. When a police department such as the Chandler Police Department tests for alcohol the testing can be completed within 2 weeks.

The time it takes to get your sample tested depends on:

  • Which agency arrested you
  • Which Lab is doing the testing
  • Is your sample is being tested for, alcohol only or drugs.

With all this in mind it can take anywhere from a few days (Phoenix alcohol testing) to several months (DPS drug testing) to have your sample tested.

DUI Process-Will I have to go to jail?

Arizona law requires jail time of between 1 day and 6 months for all DUI conviction.  If a DUI is plead down to another charge, such as Reckless Driving, no jail time may is possible.  A “day” in jail must be at least 8 hours long and in many courts is a full 24 hours.

DUI Process-Will my Mugshot appear online?

If you were booked into the Maricopa County Jail your mugshot may show up online for several days. If you booked into the Pinal County Jail your mugshot may appear online for a long time.

DUI Process- What will happen to my driver’s license?

There several possible suspension & revocation actions possible for a DUI.  Those include:

Admin Per Se Suspension

 A 90 day suspension caused by the chemical test results. For some suspensions a restricted license is possible.

Implied Consent Suspension

 A 1 year or 2 year suspension for refusing to submit to requested chemical tests, blood or breath. A restricted license may be possible for a 1 year suspension.

Points Suspension

3 to 12 months suspension for the accumulation of moving violation points.

Traffic School Suspension

 Failure to attend a traffic school (TSS) when ordered the MVD after a DUI conviction. Remains in effect until TSS completed. No restricted license available.

DUI Conviction Revocation

1 year revocation for 2 DUIs or 1 DUI or another major offense within 7 years. Other major offenses are Racing and Reckless Driving. A restricted license may be available.

Admin Per Se and and Implied Consent suspensions can be contested. Those suspensions being when the driver is served with the order of suspension. This is either done by the arresting officer at the time of arrest or by MVD by mail. The driver then has 15 days to request a hearing to contest the suspension. If a hearing is not requested the suspension will automatically go into effect. 
A driver’s license can also be suspended or revoked after the court case. Most of these suspensions and revocations cannot be contested. An exception is a TSS suspension for which a hearing can requested.

A better outcome for your DUI or other Criminal Charge than you think may be possible.

Call Now For Your Free Consultation!


Headshot of Gordon Thompson, Phoenix DUI Attorney

Gordon Thompson DUI Attorney

As a DUI Lawyer I know an arrest for a DUI or other criminal charge means you are no longer in control of your life

You may have to:

  • Stop driving
  • Attend many court and counseling sessions, thus jeopardizing your job
  • Serve jail time
  • Drive only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device for years.

Since 1979 as a DUI Lawyer I have helped over 5000 DUI & Criminal law clients take back control of their lives

  • I prevent the immediate suspension of my client’s driver’s license
  • I limit their appearances for court and counseling
  • I use my 43 years of experience to try to get the Best Result possible: for my clients. The best result could be a dismissal, a reduced charge or trial verdict of not guilty  
  • If there is a conviction, I help my client avoid or lessen the many adverse consequences of a conviction.

My job as a DUI Lawyer is to see the DUI each case through my client’s eyes 

All of my clients are unique individuals.  An arrest my trigger actions which are different for them than my other clients.  My job is to anticipate and minimize the consequences for each client and their family.

I have designed my DUI Attorney practice as if I were the client

If I were the client, I would expect my lawyer to do? I would expect my attorney to keep me fully informed as the case progresses. I would want my lawyer to  anticipate problems I was not be aware of. I would want my attorney to help me do whatever the courts and MVD said I had to do.  Because that is what I expect, this is what I provide to my clients.  Personalized Service is my responsibility alone.

DUI Lawyer E-Service

  • I use Encrypted email with HIPPA level security used to send information to my clients
  • Text messaging for notices & reminders
  • Secure online client access to dash or body camera videos
  • One-click secure & convenient video conferencing available.

My fee agreement contains no hidden fees or costs or trial fees.  All-Inclusive Reasonable Flat Fee with affordable payment plans.

Infographic showing the steps of an Arizona DUI case, starting with the stop of the vehicle, then through the court proceedings, with possible sentencing consequences if guilty. It is an easy-to-follow visual guide designed to help people understand the Phoenix DUI process.

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