Every year law enforcement agencies across the State of Arizona participate in special DUI task forces and checkpoints over Memorial Day weekend with their stated goal being to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities by enforcing DUI and traffic laws. Last year, according to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, more than 550 drivers throughout the state were arrested on suspicion of DUI, including arrests for extreme DUI (blood alcohol content of 0.15% or greater). Other citations and arrests included aggressive driving violations, Underage DUI violations (under the age of 21), and DUI drug violations.
What Should I do if I am stopped at a DUI Checkpoint?
- Slow down and safely enter the DUI checkpoint area.
- Stay in your car and follow the officer’s instructions.
- Do cooperate with the officer and provide your driver’s license, insurance and registration. However, once you have provided your identification, remember, you do have the right to remain silent and should let the officer know that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent. You also have the right to contact your lawyer – do let the officer know that you wish to contact an attorney.
- If you are asked to step out of your car to perform field sobriety tests (such as the finger-to-nose test or the walk-and-turn test), you are not required to participate in these field sobriety tests. These tests are subjective and can be used to build evidence which can be used against you.
- While you do have the right to refuse the field sobriety tests, that does not mean you should refuse all other tests. Under Arizona’s implied consent laws, a person who operates a motor vehicle gives consent to test(s) of the person’s blood, breath, or urine to determine alcohol concentration or blood content for any allegations of driving or actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Failure to consent to a chemical test will result in a 12-month license suspension. Even if you refuse to submit to the test, the officer will likely end up obtaining a search warrant which will require you to allow the blood draw anyways and will still result in a 12-month license suspension.
- You have the right to consult with an attorney and it is advisable to do so as soon as possible after you become a target of any criminal investigation.
What happens if I am charged with a DUI?
If you have been arrested for DUI, you will likely be transported to the police station or a DUI Task Force van to have your blood alcohol levels tested either through a blood draw and/or a breathalyzer test (and in some cases a urine test). Usually you will then be released, and someone can come and pick you up. In some cases, if the charges are more serious you may be held and booked into jail where you will see a Judge within 24 hours for an initial appearance and to determine release conditions.
The officer will also likely confiscate your driver’s license and provide you with what is called an ‘Admin Per Se’ form which is your temporary license for the next 15 days. You have 15 days to request a hearing with the Executive Hearing office to contest the suspension and if you fail to do so within that 15 day window, you will lose the opportunity to contest the suspension of your driving privileges. If you plan to hire an attorney and do so within this 15-day window, your attorney can assist you with this process.
The first court date you will have in a DUI case will be your arraignment hearing. The arraignment hearing is a formal hearing where you will enter a plea. The normal plea at this stage of the proceeding is a straight ‘not guilty’ plea but there may be certain circumstances when your attorney may advise you to take a different course of action at the arraignment hearing. You should always seek the advice of counsel before making any decisions in your case.
What are Possible Defense Strategies in a DUI case?
Factual defenses can be quite complicated in DUI cases due to the large amount of scientific evidence that is normally involved in prosecuting these cases. However, some of the more common defenses which may arise in the context of a DUI case include:
- General insufficiency of the state’s evidence;
- Not under the influence of alcohol – sober;
- Blood-alcohol level not over the legal limit during the relevant time frame;
- Not under the influence of drugs – for drug DUI cases involving impairment allegation;
- Not in actual physical control of the vehicle during the relevant time frame;
- Invalidity, inaccuracy, or insufficiency of the results of the testing method – there are many factors that can undermine the reliability and accuracy of both blood and breath tests (such as contamination of the equipment, mouth alcohol causing inflated results in breath tests, health conditions, blood sample storage procedures and many other factors)
This list is by no means an exhaustive list of every potential factual defense that may be available in your case. Every case is unique, and your case may very well present factual defenses not listed above. The attorney you choose should be able to identify the relevant defenses that best fit the specific circumstances and facts of your case.
Mr. Buckallew is a Board Certified Criminal Defense attorney and has extensive experience in litigating DUI cases, having handled countless DUI cases over the past nearly 20 years in practice.
Contact the Firm today to discuss your legal options if you are facing DUI charges of any type – 1st Time DUI, Extreme DUI, Super Extreme DUI, Aggravated DUI, Underage DUI, DUI Involving Serious Injury or Homicide, DUI Drugs, or any other DUI related charges.