Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

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How to avoid additional charges, and make sure your DUI stop does not turn deadly
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Recently a Mesa AZ police officer approached a vehicle and asked the driver if he had any weapons. The driver responded, affirmatively that he did in fact, have weapons in the vehicle. At that point he reached to the other side of the car and pulled a gun out of a holster from inside the vehicle. The officer apparently felt threatened, and reacted by drawing out his own sidearm. The police officer gave verbal commands for the driver to drop his weapon. The driver immediately dropped his weapon. The driver agreed to take a field sobriety test, which evidently did not go well for driver, since he was then taken to a command center to be booked for a DUI.

What went wrong that made this DUI stop potentially deadly?

Let’s take a closer look at reported events; application of the law; and tips on how to avoid criminal charges that are unrelated to driving impairment. First, there is no legal duty to voluntarily tell an officer you are carrying a gun if you are pulled over while driving in Arizona. However, you should respond affirmatively to an officer who asks. You should never pull a firearm out or at the officer or cause those to feel threatened in anyway. The driver was fortunate that the officer responded apparently with levelheadedness.

Although most attorneys discourage suspects from volunteering any information to the officer in a stop, there are others who feel there are safety benefits for the driver to volunteer to an officer that they are carrying a weapon so long as they are prohibited possessor and it is a prohibited weapon. This will avoid the police officer being taken by surprise, it in the event a search is conducted of your vehicle. Some feel too, that volunteering this information will alert a law enforcement officer that you are not doing anything wrong.

With every widely observed holiday, you’re likely you will see heightened police presence, enforcement and DUI Sobriety Checkpoints. DUI Roadblocks are set up with the intent to seek drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment, and make DUI arrests. The goal is to prevent motorists from driving impaired under the influenced of alcohol or drugs. DUI checkpoints can be considered “double edged sword” of sorts. Everyone wants impaired drivers off of the road. But if you’ve ever found yourself in a line-up waiting your turn through the checkpoint, you know it’s no fun. Whether you are driving impaired or not, it’s completely normal to feel a little nervous or anxious.

Most people sort of look around to make sure there is nothing in their vehicle that would give rise to the suspicion that they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Arizona, you should know that when the officer stops you at a DUI checkpoint, arrests can be made for violations of other crimes too, not just impaired driving.
In absence of a formal DUI safety checkpoint, a police officer needs a “reasonable suspicion” that a violation of the law or crime has occurred or is in progress to stop a driver and conduct a DUI investigation. However, DUI checkpoints bypass this usual step. Not all states have laws authorizing use of DUI checkpoints, but in Arizona their use is becoming more prevalent.

Always, (one more time) “always”, keep both hands on the wheel while you are talking to the officer. The exception to this, is if he instructs you to show him your license which requires you to take your hands on the wheel; or otherwise. Talk to the officer as calmly as possible, and when you must take your hands off the wheel to reach for your driver’s license and registration, do so calmly as well.

Like the situation in Mesa described above, an officer who sees you reach into an area of the car he can’t see may think that you are about to shoot. You do not have to reach for anything to extend a verbal affirmative or negative response.
If an officer who pulls you over for suspected DUI asks for your driver’s license, you need to show your driver’s license to him. Otherwise you may give the officer probable cause to conduct a further search and seizure. If the officer asks to search your car, you should say that you do not consent to a search. However, if the officer searches anyway, you must cooperate and you cannot put up any sort of resistance.

Field Sobriety Tests are not mandatory in Arizona. They are simply tools for Police to conduct roadside DUI screening and due to their unreliability may result in false conclusions. You can politely and lawfully refuse to participate in a field sobriety test. You should let the officer know that your reason for refusal is that you understand it is not mandatory by law, and it is your understanding that field sobriety tests are often unreliable and could give false impressions that a person is impaired when in fact they are not. You should be aware that refusing to submit to a field sobriety test may be cause for arrest or further detainment. You can and should refuse to answer questions based on your rights under the Constitution and request to speak with an attorney.

Arizona is an implied consent state. What does this mean to drivers? It means that there are civil penalties through the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) for refusal. If a driver refuses to take a breath or blood test to determine your BAC, your license may be revoked or suspended, whether they are were driving impaired or not; or convicted of the charges or not. All a refusal of a DUI breath or blood test costs you is a suspension of your driver’s license for one year. But the choice of course is ultimately yours.

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