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The Difference Between Standard DUI, Extreme DUI, and Aggravated DUI

— May 23, 2022

Regardless of the severity of your DUI offense, it’s critical that you get the help you need – not just legal help but treatment as well.

Driving under the influence is a serious offense. A DUI conviction comes with a list of penalties – none of which will look good on your record.

Most states categorize DUI offenses as either standard DUI or aggravated DUI. In the state of Arizona, however, you may also be charged with Extreme DUI – more serious than standard DUI, but not as severe as aggravated DUI.

Each type of drunk driving charge carries different consequences depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. The majority of first-time DUI offenses are punished with fines, probation, license suspension, and/or DUI screening and counseling. On the other hand, a DUI with aggravating factors may result in prison time, among other penalties.

As DUI charges are not created equal, anybody arrested for driving under the influence must know the difference between regular DUI, extreme DUI, and aggravated DUI. Doing so will help you understand what you’re dealing with and determine how to best move forward with your case.

Standard DUI

Persons arrested on suspicion of drunk driving will face a DUI charge. To establish intoxication, the authorities use a chemical testing method that measures blood alcohol concentration or BAC. If your BAC is at 0.08% or higher, you are considered to be driving under the influence.

Following the arrest, you will be booked and required to post bail for your release. You will also be given the date for your first court appearance or arraignment.

If this is your first DUI offense and you caused no harm to people or property, you will be likely convicted for misdemeanor DUI. Still, a conviction can cost you over $1000 in fines and lead to court-ordered DUI screening and in-person DUI school or DUI class online, driver’s license suspension, mandatory installation of ignition interlock device, and a few days behind bars.

Extreme DUI

An Extreme DUI charge is comparable to a standard DUI but, in this case, the driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% — roughly twice the BAC level of an ordinary DUI. Moreover, the driver’s BAC is at 20%, the charge will be elevated to Super Extreme DUI.

While both Extreme and Super Extreme DUI are still classified as misdemeanors, they carry much harsher penalties, including a mandatory jail sentence. In Arizona, the minimum prison time is 30 days, with no possibility of release or suspension.

Those who are charged with Extreme DUI will have to pay at least $2000 in fines and deal with driver’s license suspension for up to 36 months. Moreover, you may be required to pass the license exam, pay additional fees and fines, purchase a special SR-22 insurance, and install an IID on all your vehicles for up to 12 months after the restoration of your driving privileges.

One way to challenge an Extreme or Super Extreme DUI charge is to contest the legitimacy of the breathalyzer test result. However, you may not be able to pull this off on your own. You will need the services of an experienced DUI attorney to effectively argue your defense in court.

Aggravated DUI 

Unlike the first two, aggravated DUI is not determined by the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, but rather by the aggravating factors present during the arrest which are significant enough to escalate the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony. 

Aggravating Factors and Circumstances in a DUI Arrest:

Multiple DUI convictions in a 7-year period. A driver, pulled over and arrested for drunk driving, will be charged with aggravated DUI if he has committed two other DUI offenses within the last seven years.

Presence of minor passengers in the vehicle. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit is already a crime, but doing so with children 15 years old or younger in the car will further exacerbate the offense.

Children sitting in car seats
Children sitting in car seats; image courtesy of Joymaster via Wikimedia Commons,

Driving without a valid driver’s license. You will most likely end up with an aggravated DUI charge if, at the time of the arrest, the authorities find you driving with a suspended, revoked, or restricted license.

Causing harm to another person or property. If a drunk driving incident results in third-party property damage or bodily injuries, the driver is typically charged with aggravated DUI.

Driving without an IID. A person who is required by law to drive with an ignition interlock device will face felony DUI charges if he or she is caught driving a vehicle without an IID.

Driving the wrong way. Getting arrested for driving the wrong direction on a highway due to intoxication will almost certainly end up in an aggravated DUI charge.

As a felony offense, the consequences of aggravated DUI can be brutal. Steep fines, revocation of your driving privileges, obligatory drug and alcohol education, lengthy probation, and year in prison – these are just some of the penalties awaiting a person charged with aggravated DUI. Plus, if you have prior DUI or other convictions on your record, the repercussions could dramatically increase and have long-term negative impacts on your life.


The penalties for a DUI conviction vary by state, but drunk driving is a criminal offense with life-changing repercussions all the same. Regardless of the severity of your DUI offense, it’s critical that you get the help you need – not just legal help but treatment as well. Undergoing DUI screening and attending DUI classes (if necessary) will help you develop an awareness that will make it easier for you to avoid and decide against drunk driving.

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