DUI Legislation Referendum

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Senate Bill 1200, passed by state lawmakers and signed by the Governor, makes numerous changes to Arizona’s impaired driving laws. Hear from the bill’s sponsor Senator Linda Gray and Cliff Girard, a Phoenix defense attorney who has filed a referendum to stop part of that bill from going into effect.

Ted Simons: State lawmakers made several changes to Arizona DUI laws, the legislation reduces the first time -- the time a first-time DUI offender must have an interlock device on their vehicle from one year to six months. The new law also allows cities and counties to create home arrest programs for some DUI offenders or special concern I should say of special concern to some is another aspect of the law. It no longer allows all DUI suspects to request a jury trial. And that's what we're going to talk about tonight. That issue may be referred to the ballot here to talk about it is the bill's sponsor, senator Linda gray and Cliff Girard a DUI defense attorney. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Cliff Girard: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Hope I didn't mess up too much. Let's get a Bert explanation of what exactly the jury trial option is for this new law.

Linda Gray: First of all, it only applies to first-time offender non-extreme offense. To consider how much we have reduced fatalities here in Arizona, the other concern that when we brought this forward with not having a jury trial for this misdemeanor, in which the minimum sentence is one day in jail, was the cost to the courts, also. There are a number of other misdemeanors in which there are not jury trials either.

Ted Simons: Why not having a jury trial for these low-level DUI cases, why is that a bad idea?

Cliff Girard: Well they're not low-level. The jury trial -- the right to a jury trial is inherent in our system of courts and our system of government. It's in the constitution. People have a right to a jury trial in all criminal defenses. DUIs are criminal offense. There's wording in cases that say that it doesn't apply to petty offense, but no one has ever said DUIs are petty offenses. They are serious offenses and therefore they're entitled to a jury trial. The right to a jury trial is inherent in our system of government. It's one thing that sets us apart from a lot of European countries, a lot of Asian countries is to have this right to a jury trial. People charged with a serious offense that can affect their livelihood, that can affect them in all kinds of collateral consequences, including going to jail, is something that they are entitled to a jury trial for.

Ted Simons: Not a low-level offense, not a petty offense, we're talking serious business here if it's serious business there ought to be a jury trial.

Linda Gray: Other misdemeanors, threatening, intimidating, prostitution, harassment, these are areas of misdemeanors in which they do not get a jury trial. The language was changed from shall to may. They can still request it, they can appeal to a higher court. So we haven't done away with it. They can still request it.

Ted Simons: What about that idea that again, it doesn't eliminate it, but it does allow for an option.

Cliff Girard: Two problems. It does eliminate it and the second problem is if you actually took the two-tier theory that it would be up to a judge whether to grant a jury trial, we'd have a problem in the court system, because those judges who gave jury trials get all the jury trials, and the attorneys and the defendants would then notice the judges who wouldn't get jury trial, so the boat would tip over with certain people going to certain judges. And other judges doing nothing. So the system wouldn't work. The second problem is in fact say it may request a jury trial but if you read the whole bill it makes it clear you get a jury trial if you have a prior. And you get a jury trial if you have an extreme ipso facto, if you don't have a prior, and you don't have an extreme, you don't get a jury trial.

Ted Simons: Talk --

Cliff Girard: -- That's the way the judges will interpret it.

Ted Simons: Talk about that particular aspect. This necessity of priors as far as this law is concerned.

Linda Gray: If you have a prior, that's a second offense. It doesn't apply to a second offense. So you will be able to get your jury trial. We have a situation which a judge told me that they had two cases before him, one was a gentleman who did not get an attorney, he pleaded -- pleaded guilty to it, and he had the normal signing and expenses that he had to have in the interlock. And the next person sitting there had his attorney with him and he got the same, except there was one difference -- his attorney was charging him $5,000. And she looking at his attorney and wondering, is this a mistake? I have the same expenses, same conviction, and yet I'm paying $5,000 more. Where is the value added in that? And I think what we need to look at is follow the money.

Cliff Girard: You can't isolate cases. First of all, DUIs are serious offenses. Besides the issue of jail time, you've got counseling that's mandatory, you can get up to five years probation, you have an interlock device, it can affect your livelihood because a lot of employers do not want people who have had DUI convictions driving for them, or doing other types of professional work, you've got problems with your -- possibly with your credit. So you have all kinds of problems out there. One problem we got, they keep talking about that these people will not be given any jail time. The way it works now with most DUI cases, a defendant, a person who is arrested is cited and released by the officer. This means he doesn't go to jail. What they're talking about is the person's actually booked, so that once he's booked, regardless of how long he stays in jail, he's given credit for time served so therefore that he is encouraged to plead. The problem is now we would change the system so instead of citing and releasing people that are arrested for DUI, first offense DUI, with maybe a relatively low breath alcohol reading or blood-alcohol reading, they would be booked instead so that they then could ask for credit for time served as part of plea agreement.

Ted Simons: Talk about that if you would. Quickly.

Linda Gray: In my opinion going in when you're impaired and serving time, really doesn't do any good. I think the real motivation for somebody is they have to, quote, look forward to going and spending that day in jail. And I think that is more beneficial than the day they're booked when they are arrested. He does bring up a good point on which you may lose your job because somebody like UPS is not going to allow to you have an ignition interlock. Therefore you could lose your job. Therefore, we change the bill to say that if you're required to drive as part of your work, that you request a scram bracelet. That allows to you continue working and I felt that was important. We're not out to harm the person, we want them to change their behavior.

Ted Simons: We only have 30 seconds --

Cliff Girard: The problem with that is, that's all well and good, but employers will discharge employee if they have a DUI, particularly if they're driving for them, or other reasons. So the problem is it just isn't a question of rushing them through and taking a plea, it's -- they need to evaluate their particular situation to their station in life as to whether they should fight the case based on the facts of the case and the defense and whether they're actually guilty. No one who believes they are guilty and feels they are innocent and not guilty should be forced and coerced to plead to a charge after consulting with a prosecutor without the benefit of council or the right to a jury trial.

Ted Simons: And we have to stop it there. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Linda Gray: You're welcome.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Horizon," wildfire season is closing in. We'll get an update on fire danger, plus lawmakers make some changes to the state's pension system, we'll talk about that as well. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us, you have a great evening.

Linda Gray: Senator; Cliff Girard: Phoenix defense attorney;

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