ARS 28-1381 (A)(1) Impaired to the Slightest Degree

Under Arizona law, ARS 28-1381 (A)(1) considers a person guilty of DUI if they’re even slightly impaired due to alcohol or drugs.


This page will discuss all that you need to know about being charged with ARS 28-1381 in Arizona, including a breakdown of the Penalties, Fees and DUI defenses to help get your charges reduced or even dismissed!


Continue reading below. If you have any questions, contact DUI attorney Arja Shah today.


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Arizona DUI Defense From The Shah Law Firm

Being charged with impaired driving to the slightest degree under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1) can be daunting.

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

It is essential to remember that being charged is not the same as being convicted. Solid legal representation can help protect your rights, challenge evidence, and navigate the complexities of the legal system.

The Shah Law Firm’s experienced DUI defense attorneys are here to help you.


With a deep understanding of Arizona’s DUI laws and a commitment to rigorous defense strategies, we work diligently to secure the best possible outcome for our clients. Driving under the influence is a serious risk, but if you face charges under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1), remember you’re not alone. The Shah Law Firm is available to help.


Understanding What Does ARS 28-1381 (A)(1) Mean?

ARS 28-1381 (A)(1) is a provision within Arizona’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws. This particular statute makes it unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in Arizona if they are “impaired to the slightest degree” by alcohol, drugs, or a vapor-releasing substance containing a toxic substance.

This specific wording— “impaired to the slightest degree”— sets a very low bar for what can be considered impairment under Arizona law. Essentially, it means any detectable level of impairment, no matter how minor, can potentially lead to a DUI charge.

The phrase “actual physical control” is also significant in ARS 28-1381 (A)(1).

This means that a person doesn’t necessarily have to be driving to be charged with a DUI.

Instead, they merely have to be in a position to exert direct influence over the vehicle’s operation. For example, if a person is sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, they may be considered to be in actual physical control of the vehicle, even if the car is parked and not moving.

ARS 28-1381 (A)(1) is part of Arizona’s comprehensive effort to reduce the risks and damages associated with impaired driving. By setting the bar for impairment so low, the law aims to deter people from getting behind the wheel after consuming any amount of intoxicating substances.

However, because of the broad interpretation possible under “impaired to the slightest degree,” it is crucial for individuals charged under this statute to seek experienced legal representation to ensure their rights are fully protected.

What Does ‘Impaired to the Slightest Degree’ Mean in Arizona?

In other parts of the country, you might hear terms like “intoxicated driving” or “driving while intoxicated (DWI)” used more frequently. However, the phrase “impaired to the slightest degree” is the focal point in Arizona. What does it mean, exactly?

It means just what it says: if your driving ability is impaired even slightly due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other substance, you can be arrested under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1).

Even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is below the legal limit of 0.08%, you can still be arrested and convicted for DUI if the officer deems your driving ability is impaired.

How is Impairment Measured Under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1)?

Determining impairment under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1) is multifaceted. It’s important to remember that everyone’s response to alcohol or drugs varies greatly, complicating the assessment process.

Nonetheless, law enforcement officers utilize several methods to identify signs of impairment:

  • Field Sobriety Tests: These tests evaluate physical and cognitive abilities often affected by intoxication. They include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand tests. These tests are not foolproof and are often subject to the officer’s discretion and interpretation.
  • Observation of Driving Behavior: Law enforcement officers watch for tell-tale signs of impaired driving. This may include erratic driving, speeding, swerving, failure to adhere to traffic signs or signals, and other unusual driving behaviors.
  • Chemical Testing: Breath, blood, or urine tests are commonly used to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or detect the presence of drugs. While these tests can provide a quantifiable measure of impairment, they are not without potential errors and inaccuracies.
  • Officer’s Observations and Testimony: The police officer’s observations and subsequent testimony can substantially determine impairment. This might include their account of the driver’s physical appearance, behavior, and any statements made by the driver at the scene.
  • Drug Recognition Evaluations: In cases where drug impairment is suspected, a specially trained officer may conduct a drug recognition evaluation, assessing the driver’s physical appearance and vital signs to detect signs of specific drug use.

This complex variety of assessments can contribute to an impairment determination under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1), emphasizing the need for skilled legal defense representation to scrutinize and potentially challenge the validity of these assessments in court.

How Field Sobriety Tests Relate to ARS 28-1381 (A)(1)

A critical part of evaluating DUI offenses are the standardized field sobriety tests, a series of physical and cognitive tasks administered by law enforcement officers.

These tasks are designed to identify any signs of impairment, such as difficulty balancing or slow reaction time.

You do have the option to refuse these tests, along with taking a breathalyzer test. However, refusing to participate in these tests can lead to immediate suspension of driving privileges. Moreover, an officer will request for a warrant to draw your blood – which is mandatory.

These FSTs tests include the following:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Examination: This assessment requires you to track a moving object, such as a pen, using only your eyes while keeping your head stationary. The examining officer is on the lookout for uncontrolled eye twitching, a sign that can imply intoxication.
  • Walk and Turn Evaluation: This procedure entails you taking a series of steps in a straight line, heel-to-toe, followed by a pivot on one foot and nine steps back in the same manner. During this test, the officer observes your balance and ability to comply with instructions.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: During this examination, the officer instructs you to balance on one foot for a duration of 30 seconds. Indications of potential impairment include swaying, hopping, or the necessity to place the foot back on the ground to regain balance.

Consequences of Refusing Breathalyzer Tests Under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1)

Refusing to take a breathalyzer test can add a layer of complexity to your DUI charge. Under Arizona’s Implied Consent Law, refusal can lead to an immediate one-year suspension of your driving privileges, even if you weren’t impaired. This refusal could also be used against you in court, potentially complicating your defense.

Arizona’s Implied Consent Law states that any person operating a motor vehicle in the state implicitly consents to a test of their blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances to determine alcohol or drug content.

This means you’ve already agreed to these tests by getting behind the wheel.

As mentioned above, you have every constitutional right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but that doesn’t mean the officer will let you go. If you do refuse the test, an officer will obtain a warrant to draw your blood, at which you will be legally required to do so.

Potential Penalties for DUI Convictions Under ARS 28-1381 (A)(1)

Being arrested and charged with a class 1 misdemeanor DUI, even for a first-time offender, comes with potentially harsh consequences. Besides the thousands of dollars in fines, a conviction on your driving record will have repercussions that can last for many years.

When comparing the costs of representing yourself and facing enormous fines, jail time, loss of driving privileges, inflated insurance costs, alcohol screening courses, etc. -vs.- hiring an experienced DUI attorney to fight for you, it’s an easy answer.


Mandatory Jail Time

Depending on the severity of the DUI charge, you may face mandatory jail time, ranging from a single day to half a year. A minimal sentence typically entails 10 days of jail time, but successful completion of alcohol education classes could result in a suspension of nine days.



Financial Burdens

Expect significant financial penalties. Court fines for a standard first-offense DUI (non-extreme) start at $1,250, while a second non-extreme DUI can increase to over $3,000. If you’re charged with a first-time extreme DUI, be prepared for a minimum fine of $2,500, and for a second extreme DUI, fines can exceed $3,250. Remember, these are starting figures; the actual costs could be higher.

Take a look at a costs breakdown below for a first time misdemeanor DUI:

  • Mandatory Court Fines and Surcharges: $2,500 (this amount varies based on local jurisdiction fees)
  • Vehicle Impound Costs: $600 on average
  • Jail Costs: $400 on average
  • Alcohol Screening: $100
  • Alcohol/Drug Classes: $1,000
  • Ignition Interlock Device: $1,500 on average
  • SR-22 Insurance Policy Increase: $1,500 on average
  • Extra Car Insurance Premiums: $9,000

Total Estimated Costs: $16,600



Drivers License Suspension

A DUI conviction can lead to a minimum 90-day driver’s license or driving privilege suspension, sometimes extending up to a full year. Having an aggressive defense attorney represent you at MVD Court Hearings can make a difference.


Additional Repercussions

Other potential consequences could arise from a DUI conviction. These can include probation periods that can last up to five years, mandatory alcohol or drug screening, compulsory attendance of educational classes, possible community service, jail incarceration fees, probable monthly probation fees, the possible requirement for SR22 insurance, and a mandatory one-year installation of an ignition interlock device.

Top 10 FAQs About ARS 28-1381 (A)(1)

Below are the most common questions we are asked when a person has been arrested and charged with intoxication to the slightest degree.

What types of substances does ARS 28-1381(A)(1) apply to?

The statute applies to any substance, whether legal or illegal, prescription or over-the-counter, that can cause a person to be impaired while driving, even to the slightest degree.

What does it mean to be 'impaired to the slightest degree'?

It means that any level of impairment, no matter how minimal, due to alcohol, drugs, or a vapor-releasing substance can lead to a DUI charge under this statute.

How does the state prove 'impairment to the slightest degree' under ARS 28-1381(A)(1)?

The state might use field sobriety tests, blood tests, breath tests, or a combination thereof to prove impairment. Other factors, such as erratic driving or the smell of alcohol, could also be considered.

Does ARS 28-1381(A)(1) apply if I'm taking prescription medication?

Yes, even legal, prescribed medication can result in a DUI charge if it impairs your ability to drive to the slightest degree.

Does ARS 28-1381(A)(1) still apply if I refuse to take a field sobriety test?

Yes. Even if you refuse a field sobriety test, you can still be arrested for DUI based on other signs of impairment observed by the officer.

Can a DUI charge under ARS 28-1381(A)(1) be dismissed if I complete an alcohol or drug treatment program?

Not necessarily. While completion of such a program could influence sentencing or plea negotiations, it doesn’t automatically result in the dismissal of charges.

How does a DUI conviction under ARS 28-1381(A)(1) affect my driving record?

A conviction will go on your driving record, leading to increased insurance rates and license suspension and potentially affecting future employment opportunities, especially for jobs requiring driving.

If I'm not exhibiting any signs of impairment, can I still be charged under ARS 28-1381(A)(1)?

Yes. If a chemical test shows the presence of an impairing substance, you can be charged even if you’re not showing physical signs of impairment.


Can I be charged with a DUI under ARS 28-1381(A)(1) even if my Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08%?

Yes. ARS 28-1381(A)(1) applies if a person is impaired to the slightest degree, regardless of the BAC level.


Can I be charged under ARS 28-1381(A)(1) if I'm sitting in a parked car while impaired?

Potentially yes. If it’s deemed that you had ‘actual physical control’ of the vehicle, you can be charged, even if you weren’t driving or planning to drive.



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