New Arizona Bill Will Limit Right to a Jury Trial for DUI Defendants
On April 29th, 2011, AZ SB 1200 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer and is to go in effect on December 31, 2011. The bill approved by the Arizona Legislature will end the automatic right to a jury trial for first-time DUI offenses. As the law currently stands, first time DUI defendants have a right to a jury trial, however, under the new provisions it would be up to the judge's discretion for whether or not to grant a jury trial.
This new law only applies to first-time DUI offenses. Repeat offenders would still have the right to a jury trial. The bill does, however, offer an alternative to first-time offenders. Their case can be heard in front of a judge, who can ultimately decide whether or not the DUI suspect was guilty.
This change only reflects one aspect of the bill, which covers many other changes to current DUI laws. For example, an important change is the length of time in which first time DUI defendants are required to install an ignition interlock device inside their vehicles. Prior to the change, first time non-extreme offenders had to install an ignition interlock device for twelve months. With the new law, that length of time will now be reduced to six months instead.
The purpose of reducing the ignition interlock time requirement for first time DUI defendants was to help Arizona families who were struggling with the hassle of an ignition interlock device. Shortening the duration of the installation requirement relieved the financial burden of having to keep up the monthly fees, as well as the time it takes to get the device calibrated and reset.
The change to the right to a jury trial happens to be the particular aspect of the bill which has been met with opposition from some citizens and lawyers alike. Supporters of the amendment claim that the change was made in an effort to reduce the state's cost for expensive jury trials for lesser DUI charges. Those individuals who have trouble with the amendment argue that revoking a defendant's statutory right to a jury trial is unjust. Especially considering the fact that repeat offenders still enjoy the benefit of having their rights preserved.
Counties within Arizona will in fact save money because there is not jury trial requirement; however, many lawyers have stated that they will challenge the provision on constitutional grounds. Many stand firm on the fact that criminal defendants are supposed to have a right to a fair and speedy trial and they are supposed to have their case heard by a jury of their peers. If you or someone you love has been arrested for DUI in Arizona, where the SB 1200 will be going into effect, you should seek the advice of an experienced DUI defense lawyer who is abreast of the new laws and how they might affect you.