Drunk driving is a grave issue in the United States: every day, 28 people die from an accident resulting from drunk driving. Many states, and Arizona, in particular, have taken great strides to help curb the epidemic, ramping up enforcement and requiring ignition interlock devices be installed in the cars of drunk drivers, but the problem continues.
For individual drivers, it can often be difficult to determine what really is too drunk to drive. This is further complicated by fact that in many states you can be charged and even convicted of a DUI with a blood alcohol content below .08%.
This is at least part of the reason why Ignition Interlock devices are helpful; in order to start a car fitted with an ignition interlock device, a driver must breathe into a car breathalyzer’s interlock cup and prove their sobriety.
If you don’t have such resources available to you, there are a number of options for you. You can call a cab or another ride, or you could sleep it off in the car. But even if you plan on simply relaxing if your car while waiting for a ride, you must take precautions to avoid placing yourself of being in “actual physical control” of your car, meaning that you are able to cause harm to yourself or others with your vehicle.
The best way to avoid putting yourself in “actual physical control” is to simply not insert the key into the ignition. There is precedent in Arizona for a person to be charged with DUI simply by having their keys in the ignition while being drunk, even if the reason is as innocuous as turning on the radio or rolling down a window.
The benefit of this rule, however, is that if you make a mistake and get behind the wheel when you should not, you can pull off of the road and turn off your car in order to rest until you are sober enough to continue your drive without fear of being charged should you be discovered while sleeping with the car off.
According to a Supreme Court ruling in State of Arizona v. Zavala, 136 Ariz. 356, 666 P.2d 456 (1983):
“The interpretation we place on the legislature’s imprecise language is compelled by our belief that it is reasonable to allow a driver, when he believes his driving is impaired, to pull completely off the highway, turn the key off and sleep until he is sober, without fear of being arrested for being in control. To hold otherwise might encourage a drunk driver, apprehensive about being arrested, to attempt to reach his destination while endangering others on the highway.”
It is important to note that law is complicated and ever evolving. The only sure way not to be convicted of a DUI is to avoid anything that might appear as drunk driving and to never put the key into the ignition if you are unsure of your own sobriety.