News and Insights

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July 1st, 2016

Posted In: Uncategorized

As Arizona hits its hottest temperatures of the year, it once again is time for the annual outcry for some non-specific law that would force hikers to pay for their rescues off of Phoenix-area trails. Though the actual scope of the law is rarely if ever specifically defined, those in favor of it are quick with a name: the “Stupid Hiker Law.”

Before rushing to judgment, it is important to understand, and perhaps even define, what behavior the law would seek to punish. Arizona’s Stupid Motorist Law is often held out as the prime example of what a hiker law would look like. There are real differences, however, between the behavior that the very specific Stupid Motorist Law punishes and what a similarly called hiker law seeks to penalize.

The Stupid Motorist Law has been in place for more than two decades. Whether prosecutors rely on it regularly or not, its name alone serves as a warning to Arizona drivers not to drive into flooded roadways. Specifically, the law provides the basis for the recovery of rescue expenses against a driver who (i) drives around a “Road Closed” barricade, (ii) drives into water that is covering the roadway, and (iii) becomes stranded and needs to be rescued.

What would a similar hiker law look like?

Central Arizona alone is home to dozens of hiking trails of all skill levels at the state, county and city levels. These parks and preserves cover tens of thousands of acres and hundreds of miles of trails, with dozens of trail heads and entry and exit points. There are also hundreds and hundreds of miles of hiking trails located within Arizona, but outside of Central Arizona.

So questions must be asked: Can someone get the signs in place to close hundreds of miles of trails? Would the local, county or state governments overseeing their parks need to put a barrier on each and every trailhead and entry / exit point stating “Trail Closed”? Would that even be possible?

What is the danger that is being avoided? The Stupid Motorist Law requires that someone drive around a road closed sign AND into water before that person can be held liable for any resulting rescue. The danger being avoided is a flooded roadway.

As such, any hiking law specifically modeled after the Stupid Motorist Law seemingly would need to identify the danger. On Arizona’s hiking trails, there are many such dangers. Obviously, hot conditions can cause a problem. However, there are mountain rescues related to heat and hiker exhaustion in the winter months, just as there are in summer months. Is the goal to discourage hikers who can are overcome by heat at 100 degrees? 105 degrees? 110 degrees? 115 degrees? Go to any trail in Central Arizona when the temperature hits any of these marks, and you will find dozens, even hundreds, of hikers going up and down the trails all day long, with no problems.

It is probably not fair or appropriate to look at specific recent tragedies to justify enacting or not enacting a hiker law. It is important to note, however, that when reviewing news reports of rescues going back several years that injuries of all types can befall anyone. Experienced, long-time hikers can find themselves in need of medical attention on the hottest days, and novices may need to seek help on days when the temperature barely climbs over 70 degrees – or vice-versa.

It is not just the temperature that can lead to rescues.  There also are numerous other risks associated with hiking desert mountains and preserves. Aggressive bee attacks have been reported. There are, of course, snakes. Monsoon storms bring dust, heavy winds, rain and lightning, all of which contribute to rescues. The trails themselves often have loose impediments that lead to turned ankles, and, therefore, rescues. Should trails be closed down to avoid these dangers as well?

Surely, there are ways that lawmakers can draft an enforceable law to require hikers to pay for their rescues. But they need to make it clear and specific. Hikers need to know exactly when they might be in violation of any such law. And don’t punish true accidents. It is important that everyone involved in such legislation think through what the law will actually look like, whom it will impact, and what conduct it is trying to eliminate.

June 1st, 2016

Posted In: Uncategorized

Arizona bars and restaurants now can more readily sell alcohol to out-of-state 21 year olds than those who hold certain Arizona licenses.

For the past two years, businesses in Arizona were legally prohibited from selling alcohol to anyone holding a vertical driver license or identification card (or identification otherwise marked or issued to a minor) if more than 30 days had passed since that person’s 21st birthday.

The law still applies to Arizona residents, but not to out-of-state residents. Arizona’s new law now allows anyone over 21 with an out-of-state driver license or identification card to purchase alcohol, so long as the license or card has a photo of the holder and the holder’s birth date.

Arizona Revised Statutes (“ARS”) § 4-241(K)(1) previously provided that the following were acceptable forms of identification:

  1. An unexpired driver license issued by any state, the District of Columbia, any territory of the United States or Canada if the license includes a picture of the licensee and the person’s date of birth. A driver license issued to a person who is under twenty-one years of age is no longer an acceptable type of identification under this paragraph thirty days after the person turns twenty-one years of age.

That statute changed earlier this month and now provides.

  1. An unexpired driver license issued by this state. A driver license issued to a person who is under twenty-one years of age is no longer an acceptable type of identification under this paragraph thirty days after the person turns twenty-one years of age.
  2. An unexpired driver license issued by any other state, the District of Columbia, any territory of the United States or Canada if the license includes a picture of the person and the person’s date of birth.

Why the change? It appears to be an attempt to balance two state interests. First, prevent those under 21 from purchasing alcohol but, second, allow those of legal drinking age to spend money imbibing in bars and restaurants. To understand the reasoning behind the change, let’s first look at why the identification law was passed in the first place.

Policy makers recognize that underage drinking is a problem. If they can find ways to curb it they will, as long as the enforcement vehicles do not unnecessarily burden businesses that want to sell alcohol to persons of legal drinking age.

By 2010, most states had adopted laws requiring driver licenses and identification cards issued to persons under 21 to incorporate some mechanism that clearly identified the holder as under 21. Arizona chose to issue vertical cards to persons under 21. Nationwide, the goal has been to make it easier for businesses to determine whether a patron is of legal drinking age.

Arizona went a step further. In 2014, the state passed strict legislation preventing anyone holding an under 21 driver license or identification card from purchasing alcohol if more than 30 days had passed since their 21st birthday.

The legislation was widely supported by the Arizona hospitality industry. It made things easier. Bartenders no longer had to scrutinize a vertical driver license for a birth date. If vertical, it was not a legal form of identification for the purchase of alcohol.

Within months, however, bars and restaurants began to identify an unintended consequence of the law. There were anecdotal reports of Arizona businesses losing income, because out-of-state vacationers or college students did not have updated driver licenses, and had no prompt, reasonable means of obtaining an acceptable form of identification.

To remedy this, earlier this month Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law the newly revised ARS § 4-241(K), which treats out-of-state license holders more generously than in-state license holders, at least with respect to purchasing alcohol.

So is that appropriate? Arizonans who are more than thirty days past 21 and still possess a vertical driver license might decry the legislation as unfair. But then again, by living here, someone turning 21 can easily and quickly obtain a replacement license.

Those out-of-state residents living in Arizona for a period of months at a time – such as college students – may well turn 21 while here, but have no prompt and effective means of obtaining an over-21 duplicate driver license. Not every state allows for the on-line replacement of an under-21, vertical driver license.

Is it legal? Almost certainly. States are given great leeway in both the types of identification they issue and the manner in which they regulate and control the sale of alcohol.

April 13th, 2016

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March 10th, 2016

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November 30th, 2016

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