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Common DUI Terms
Common Arizona DUI Terms


Absorption Rate:
The rate at which consumed alcohol finds its way into the blood stream. While alcohol sits in the stomach, its absorption is delayed. Absorption rate will be affected by how much was eaten, individual biologic differences (such as weight, gender, etc…), and what type of beverage was consumed. When drinking continues over a course of hours, both absorption and “burnoff” (metabolizing of alcohol) will be happening simultaneously.

Administrative License Suspension:
Suspension of the license of drivers charged DUI when a driver has a BAC above the prescribed limit, or sometimes if a driver refuses to take a roadside blood or breath test. Thus the license may be suspended before adjudication of the DWI charge.


Short for “blood alcohol concentration.” BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and is measured in percentages. BAC can be measured either by breath, blood or urine testing and is often used by law enforcement to determine whether or not a motorist is “legally drunk.” Arizona BAC laws that make it illegal to drive with a BAC at or above 0.08%.

Blood Test:
A laboratory test that directly measures the percentage of alcohol content of the blood drawn from a DWI suspect.

Breath Test:
A test of blood alcohol level that is derived from measuring the alcohol level of the suspect’s breath. It depends for its accuracy on the machine’s receiving air from deep in the lungs, and a mathematical formula is used to extrapolate the blood alcohol level from the lung-air alcohol level.

PBT(Preliminary Breath Test):
A portable machine used by law enforcement to measure the BAC of suspected drunk drivers. In Arizona submitting to the PBT is voluntary and should not be performed. DO NOT CONFUSE THE PORTABLE BREATH MACHINE WITH THE BREATH TESTING ADMINISTERED FOLLOWING ARREST. REFUSAL TO SUBMIT TO TESTING AFTER ARREST WILL RESULT IN AN AUTOMATIC 12 MONTH LICENSE SUSPENSION.

Burnoff Rate:
The rate at which alcohol in the body is metabolized. During burnoff, the blood alcohol level drops, giving rise to the “falling curve” term to describe the graph of the decrease in BA.

Chemical Test:

As it relates to DUI, a test of the alcohol or drug concentration in a person’s blood. A Breathalyzer, blood analysis, or urinalysis can be used as chemical tests for alcohol. If other drugs are suspected, a blood test or urine test is used.

Commercial Vehicle:

A vehicle driven for business purposes.

Driving While Under the Influence.

Driving While Intoxicated.

A serious crime, such as murder, rape or burglary, for which there is a stricter sentence given than for a misdemeanor. Felonies are usually categorized by degrees. 1st degree felonies are the most serious class (with the highest fines and penalties), 2nd degree felonies are less serious, and so on. Many states treat DUIs that cause serious bodily injury as a 3rd degree felony. If there has been a death as a result of the DUI, it might be classified as a 1st or 2nd degree felony, depending upon the prosecutor and the situation. Some states elevate DWI to felony status even without an injury or death, if the suspect has a given number of prior DWI convictions. A felony can result in a sentence to state prison instead of county jail.

FST (Field Sobriety Test):
A series of physical and mental coordination tests designed to help an officer decide if a driver is DWI. These may include walking the straight line, reciting the alphabet, standing still with feet together and arms extended, standing on one foot, etc. These are highly subjective, but if the officer concludes the driver was driving under the influence, he/she will require a blood test. In Arizona the Field Sobriety Test is voluntary and should not be performed.
Ignition Interlock Device: An ignition interlock device is an in-car alcohol breath screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a pre-set limit of .02 (i.e., 20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood). The device is located inside the vehicle, near the driver’s seat, and is connected to the engine’s ignition system. In some cases Arizona requires that the device be used by those convicted of DUI.

Implied Consent Laws:
Arizona has an implied consent law. If you have an Arizona driver’s license and are pulled over in Arizona, you have, by implication, consented to have your blood alcohol concentration measured. In Arizona if you refuse to take the test, you will receive an automatic 12 month suspension and the police will most likely obtain a warrant and take a blood sample anyways.


A brand name for a blood alcohol breath testing machine.
License Revocation: A license revocation means your driving privileges have been cancelled. You will likely need to reapply for a driver’s license after a designated length of time.

License Suspension:
A license suspension means you may not drive for the period of your suspension. Driving privileges are typically administered by a state agency other than the court system. It could be the Secretary of State, the Department of Motor Vehicles or another agency. If your license is suspended, the suspension will likely take effect immediately upon arrest, and not upon conviction. Check your state’s laws. You, or your lawyer on your behalf, may be able to negotiate a limited suspension, meaning you may drive to and from work, but nowhere else.

Miranda Rights:

The formal advisement that you have the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present before answering questions, which police must recite prior to questioning someone who is in custody (custodial interrogation).

A crime less serious than a felony. Misdemeanors are sometimes categorized by degrees. 1st degree misdemeanors are the most serious class (with the highest fines and penalties), 2nd degree misdemeanors are less serious, and so on. Many states treat a first DUI conviction as a misdemeanor.

When all or part of the required jail time is suspended in exchange for good behavior, as determined by checking in with a probation officer. Jail time may be reinstated if it is found the terms of probation are being violated. Some grants of probation are unsupervised, but a violation may be found after a new arrest.
Provisional (or restricted) License: A provisional license typically withholds certain license privileges. In a DUI context, a provisional license might be granted to someone to drive to and from work only, or to and from the court ordered drinking driver program.

Ejecting some stomach contents up into the throat or mouth. With alcohol in the stomach, this can fool a Breathalyzer into thinking that the blood alcohol level is much higher than it is. Officers administering a breath test are supposed to watch the suspect to see he does not burp or regurgitate prior to the test. A cloud of alcohol burped up into the mouth will invalidate the breath test results.

Rising Curve Defense:

A defense to DWI based upon the claim that the driver was not under the influence and did not have .08% blood alcohol when he or she was driving, but that it rose to that level after arrest due to the fact that alcohol was still being absorbed. Consequently, a long delay between being pulled over and having a BA test helps the suspect in many cases.

Zero Tolerance BAC:
Allowable blood alcohol content for under age persons (under 21). In Arizona this percentage is 0% (meaning no alcohol content may be detected-hence the term “zero tolerance.”).

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