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Feb 5, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns small forward P.J. Tucker (17) during the game against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Suns 122-108. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Understanding P.J. Tucker's reduced DUI sentence

P.J. Tucker’s apology for his super extreme DUI acknowledged that the Phoenix Suns didn’t have to pay him $16.5 million after learning of his arrest. The capacity to forgive is clear from the Suns’ end, but it’s a wonder if the Arizona legal system would also be forgiving. Despite pleading guilty to his drunk driving offenses, Tucker saw a maximum 45-day sentence get reduced to a three-day sentence plus 11 days of home detention.

While some would assume such a reduction is a matter of favoritism because Tucker is a professional athlete, his sentence actually appears to be relatively standard.

The state’s reputation for being a tough place for DUI law is true in that police are aggressive in making arrests. As far as penalties go, Arizona is actually ahead of the curve by having varying degrees of DUI offenses. Tucker, whose blood alcohol content was measured at .222, was charged on three: one standard DUI charge for being above the legal limit of .08, another for extreme DUI at more than .15, and the super extreme charge for being above .20.

ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson confirmed that other states are likely to adopt the practice of adding tiers to their DUI charges.

What the punishments are and what reductions to those punishments are available is a little more complicated.

Arizona DUI attorney Mark Weingart appeared on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash on Fox Sports 910 this week and confirmed this article by local attorney Dan Ballecer regarding the state’s laws that allowed Tucker’s sentence to be reduced. Tucker will spend three days in jail, face probation and pay thousands of dollars in fines.

Additionally, he’ll have an interlock device installed on his car and spend 11 days under house detention. These two punishments are key, as the provisions that allow them combined to reduce Tucker’s sentence. By one statute, the interlock rule brings the jail time for super extreme DUI down from 45 days to 14 days. By another, the ability for house arrest can make the jail sentence 20 percent of the “initial jail sentence.” The loophole there is that the “initial” sentence can be given to the 14 days after applying the interlock reduction rather than the real initial sentence of 45 days. Ballecer actually used a super extreme DUI as an example in writing his article from 2013, breaking down exactly what Tucker is facing.

Where it gets really interesting is when one combines the two statutes (the ignition interlock law and the home detention law). For a super extreme DUI, for example, the mandatory minimum sentence is 45 days in jail. If the Defendant obtains an ignition interlock device, that person will only have to serve 14 days of the 45 day sentence. However, if you apply the home detention aspect to this, then he theoretically will only have to serve 20% of the 14 day initial jail sentence before being released to home detention (or 3 days, then 11 days on home detention with the remaining days being suspended).

Ballecer adds that it often depends on the judge and the lawyer to fight for such reductions, but from this article, it’s clear how Tucker’s sentence reduction happened under the state law. And what’s clear from reading around is that first offenses often times go this way. Following DUI offenses become much more harsh.

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