Wrong Way Driving: Felony DUI

wrong way driving dui

In Arizona, wrong-way driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to charges of aggravated DUI


Being charged with an aggravated DUI for wrong way driving means facing harsher penalties than those typically associated with a regular DUI.


These can include mandatory prison time, substantial fines, a longer period of license suspension, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on the driver’s vehicle.

With a track record of success in handling prior DUI convictions and advocating for the best interests of their clients, Kolsrud Law Offices is a trusted resource for anyone facing an aggravated DUI charge in Arizona.

aggravated dui

What is An Aggravated DUI Under Arizona Law

Aggravated DUI in Arizona is a serious criminal offense that escalates a standard DUI to a felony under specific conditions as outlined in the Arizona Revised Statutes § 28-1383


  • License Suspension or Restriction: An individual commits an aggravated DUI if they operate a vehicle under the influence while their driving privileges are suspended, revoked, canceled, or restricted.
    • This includes restrictions due to previous DUI offenses under sections 28-1381 or 28-1382, or a court order under section 28-1385.

  • Repeat Offenses: Committing a third DUI offense within an 84-month period also qualifies as aggravated DUI.
    • This counts any combination of prior convictions under sections 28-1381, 28-1382, or equivalent statutes from other jurisdictions that would be violations if committed in Arizona.

  • Presence of a Minor: Driving under the influence with a child under 15 years of age in the vehicle is another scenario that escalates a DUI to aggravated DUI.

  • Ignition Interlock Violation: An aggravated DUI charge can also arise if a person required to have an ignition interlock device due to a previous DUI commits any further DUI offenses.

  • Wrong-Way Driving: Specifically relevant to this discussion, driving the wrong way on a highway while under the influence is categorized as aggravated DUI.

 Additionally, for aggravated DUI offenses, options such as probation, pardon, or suspension of sentence are not available until after a required minimum period of incarceration has been completed.

arizona highway

How Does Arizona Define "Wrong Way Driving" and "Highway"

In Arizona, the terms "wrong way driving" and "highway" are legally defined to establish clear guidelines for traffic regulation and enforcement. 


Wrong Way Driving:


According to Arizona law, "wrong way driving" refers to operating a vehicle in a direction that opposes the legal flow of traffic.

The term does not encompass situations where a vehicle crosses a median or ends up facing the wrong direction due to a collision.




The definition of "highway" in Arizona is broad, encompassing much more than just major roads or interstates. Statutorily, a highway includes any publicly maintained road that is open to the use of the public for vehicular travel. This includes most roads where the public can drive, whether they are in urban, suburban, or rural areas. 

What are the Penalties for an Aggravated DUI Charge

Here’s a breakdown of the consequences for a Class 4 felony aggravated DUI:


  • Incarceration: The mandatory minimum prison sentence for a Class 4 felony aggravated DUI is four months. However, depending on the number of prior offenses and other aggravating factors, the prison term can extend up to 3.75 years for a first offense. For individuals with one prior felony conviction, the sentence range increases to 2.25 to 7.5 years, and for those with two or more prior felonies, the range is 6 to 15 years.
  • Fines and Financial Penalties: Fines for a Class 4 felony aggravated DUI can be substantial. The minimum fine is $750, but additional assessments for public safety equipment or prison construction can significantly increase the total financial burden. These additional assessments can include a $250 DUI abatement fee, a $1,500 public safety equipment fund fee, and a $1,500 prison construction and operations fund fee.
  • License Suspension: Conviction of a Class 4 felony aggravated DUI typically results in at least a one-year suspension of driving privileges. This suspension could be longer depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the individual’s driving history.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: After the reinstatement of their driver’s license, offenders are required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. This requirement can extend for up to two years or more.
  • Alcohol or Drug Education and Treatment: Offenders must attend and complete approved alcohol or other drug screening, education, or treatment programs. The court closely monitors compliance with these programs, and failure to complete them can result in extended probation or additional jail time.


Offense Incarceration Fines and Assessments License Suspension Ignition Interlock Requirement Additional Requirements
First Offense Minimum of 4 months up to 3.75 years Minimum $750 + additional assessments At least 1 year Required after license reinstatement Mandatory alcohol/drug education or treatment
Second Offense 2.25 to 7.5 years (with one prior felony) Increased fines + additional assessments Extended suspension Extended requirement period Enhanced education/treatment requirements
Third Offense 6 to 15 years (with two prior felonies) Further increased fines + assessments Revocation possible Extended or permanent requirement possible Stricter education/treatment requirements

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What are Defense Strategies For a Felony DUI

In cases of felony DUI, particularly those involving wrong way driving, the prosecution must establish specific elements to secure a conviction. Understanding these elements can guide the defense strategy effectively.


Here’s what the prosecution typically needs to prove:


  • Driving or Actual Physical Control: The defendant was driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle.
  • Impairment: The defendant was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any combination thereof.
  • Wrong Way: The defendant was driving in a direction opposing the legal flow of traffic on a highway or road as defined by law.
  • Aggravating Circumstances: The offense included aggravating factors that elevate it to a felony, such as driving on a suspended license, having multiple DUI offenses within a specific period, having a minor in the vehicle, or driving the wrong way on a highway.

Given these requirements, defense attorneys can employ several strategies to challenge the prosecution's case:


  • Challenge the Evidence of Driving or Control

    • If there is any ambiguity about whether the defendant was actually driving or in control of the vehicle, this could be a viable defense. For example, if the defendant was found near but not in the driver's seat, or if there was no eyewitness testimony to them driving.

  • Dispute the Evidence of Impairment

    • Attacking the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood tests used to prove intoxication is another common defense strategy. This might involve questioning the calibration and maintenance of testing equipment or the procedural correctness of the testing process.

  • Question the Determination of “Wrong Way”

    • The defense might argue that the defendant was not technically driving the wrong way as defined by law, perhaps due to confusing signage or a lack of appropriate traffic markers.

  • Procedural Defenses

    • There may be procedural errors made by the arresting officers or during the processing of the DUI charge that could invalidate some of the evidence against the defendant. This could include violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights, such as failing to administer Miranda warnings at the appropriate time.

  • Negotiation for Lesser Charges

    • Depending on the strength of the case against the defendant and any mitigating factors (such as a previously clean driving record or voluntary post-arrest rehabilitation efforts), it may be possible to negotiate a plea for lesser charges that come with less severe penalties

These defense strategies, when effectively applied, can result in reduced charges, lesser penalties, or even a complete dismissal of charges, depending on the case specifics.


Experienced defense attorneys will carefully analyze all aspects of the case to determine the most appropriate strategy based on the evidence and circumstances.

Aggravated DUI FAQ

What constitutes a wrong way driving aggravated DUI in Arizona?

An aggravated DUI involving wrong way driving occurs when a driver operates a vehicle in the opposite direction of legal traffic flow on a highway while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Under ARS 28-1383, this is specifically classified as a felony, typically a Class 4 felony, due to the extreme danger it poses.


How is a wrong way driving DUI different from a regular DUI?

 A regular DUI typically involves driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08% but does not include additional aggravating factors. A wrong way driving DUI, on the other hand, includes the serious risk of colliding head-on with other traffic, which elevates it to an aggravated DUI due to the heightened danger.


What are the penalties for a wrong way driving aggravated DUI in Arizona?

The penalties for a wrong way driving aggravated DUI can include at least 4 months in prison for a first offense, substantial fines, a mandatory ignition interlock device, and a significant suspension or revocation of the driver's license or privilege to drive. Repeat offenders or those with prior DUI convictions face harsher penalties.


Can a wrong way driving DUI be considered a Class 6 felony?

While most aggravated DUIs, including wrong way driving, are classified as Class 4 felonies, certain circumstances, such as the driver's criminal history or specific details of the incident, could potentially adjust the charge. Typically, a Class 6 felony is reserved for less severe felony offenses.


What should I do if I’m charged with a wrong way driving felony DUI?

If you are charged with a wrong-way driving felony DUI, it is important to consult an experienced DUI lawyer. An Arizona DUI attorney specializing in aggravated DUIs can provide legal guidance and potentially help mitigate penalties.


Does a wrong way driving DUI always result in months in prison?

Yes, a conviction for an aggravated DUI in Arizona, including those involving wrong way driving, typically requires a mandatory minimum incarceration period. For first-time offenders, this starts at 4 months in prison, with potential increases depending on prior offenses and the specific details of the case.


How can a DUI lawyer help if I'm accused of driving the wrong way under the influence?

A DUI lawyer can challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution, such as the accuracy of BAC tests or the alleged direction of travel. They can also negotiate with the court for reduced charges or penalties, represent your interests in trial, and ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the process.

Contact an Arizona DUI Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with an aggravated DUI due to wrong-way driving while under the influence, the consequences can be severe. Josh Kolsrud and his team of experienced defense attorneys at Kolsrud Law Offices are here to help. They will craft a strong defense strategy tailored to your unique situation.


He's taken on over 100 trials and handled more than 3,500 cases.


For more details on how Josh Kolsrud can assist with your case, or to schedule a free initial consultation, you can contact him directly at the Kolsrud Law Offices. He is available via phone at (602) 638-3790.

An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006

Why Choose Josh Kolsrud

With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication



Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients



Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

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