Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in DUI Testing

Arizona V. Cooperman: DUI Partition Ratio relevant, competent evidence to show lack of DUI Impairment.
breathalyzer-465392-m.jpg Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) refers to the concentration of alcohol in the blood that can currently be measured either by a DUI blood test or a breath test. Interestingly, however, the results of a breathalyzer test for DUI may not always be the same as the results from a blood test. This may be the case even if the blood and breath are tested at the same time.

Partition Ratio in DUI Breathalyzer Tests

Breathalyzer tests produce a numerical score, only by mathematically converting the breath sample to a Blood Alcohol Concentration level. This conversion process is known as the “partition ratio” when the conversion factor is used. The conversion is considered problematic by some because it is not necessarily reflective of the actual partition ratio for an individual; actual partition ratios for individuals can vary. Factors that may cause the ratios to vary include but are not limited to body temperature, medical conditions and gender. This means a breathalyzer test for an individual may not accurately translate to a blood alcohol concentration level indicative of impairment.

Case Background: State of Arizona v. Cooperman
In a recent case, the Arizona Supreme Court addressed whether partition ratio evidence could be admitted in a DUI case where (1) the state chose to bring in breath test results to prove a defendant had a .08 percent or more BAC within two hours of driving, and (2) evidence related to how much partition ratios varied in the population was relevant to the defendant’s level of impairment. The defendant here wanted to show how the partition ratio varies in the general population in order to introduce doubt as to whether the results of the breath test showed impairment.
In this case, a motorist charged with one count of driving while “impaired to the slightest degree” in violation of A.R.S. 28-1381 (A) 1; and the other was for having an alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more within two hours of driving in violation of A.R.S. 28-1381 (A) 2.

The Prosecution generally attempts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the latter charge (.08 percent BAC) by presenting a jury with evidence of a defendant’s blood alcohol content and establishing a DUI test sample was taken within two hours of the defendant driving. When a person’s BAC is .08 percent or higher, the presumption is that a person is under the influence, in violation of Arizona’s legal limit. However, to have a level below the .08 percent BAC does not however, create a presumption. If the officer had probable cause to believe that a motorist’s was still impaired, even though their BAC was below .08 percent, they may bring charges in violation of “impaired to the slightest degree”. The impairment, however, cannot be presumed, and must be decided in connection with other probable cause evidence.

The prosecution in this case attempted to prevent the defendant from submitting evidence that showed the partition ratio used to convert the breath reading to a blood reading was variable, meaning inconsistent, or liable to change. The prosecution argued that it planned only to introduce the breath test results for proof that the defendant’s BAC exceeded .08 percent; but not to prove the first charge of “impairment to the slightest degree”. Since the prosecution was not going to introduce the breath test for the impairment to the slightest degree charge, they argued the defendant could not present the partition ratios related to that breath test to cast doubt on whether or not the defendant was impaired at all.

Experts for both parties testified regarding the partition ratio. The defendant again tried to introduce exculpatory evidence of the partition ratio to that would cast doubt on whether or not he was impaired to the slightest degree. The State argued the defendant’s evidence was irrelevant and had the potential create unfair prejudice. The court ruled that partition ratio evidence was in fact relevant whenever breath test results are brought forward by the State. The court of appeals affirmed this ruling. The State then appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.


Arizona Supreme Court Analysis

The Arizona Supreme Court held that evidence is relevant where it can make a material fact in a case more or less probable. If evidence is relevant, it is permitted at trial, unless there is specific rule or provision in the law that prohibits it. In this case, the State was required to prove that the defendant was impaired because he drank alcohol. Therefore evidence of his impairment was relevant.

The AZ Supreme Court recognized the strong correlation between Blood Alcohol Content levels and intoxication. The prosecutors had argued that they had the unilateral ability to invoke the presumption that the defendant was under the influence and the partition evidence was irrelevant because they chose not to invoke the presumption of impairment to the slightest degree.

The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed with this approach by the prosecution. They held that there is nothing that precludes a DUI defendant from presenting partition ratio evidence to show he was not impaired in an impairment case. In fact, they cited specific Arizona Law, A.R.S. 28-1381(H) which specifically provides that any “competent evidence” on the issue of the question of the defendant’s impairment in DUI charges brought against them.

Conclusions

In conclusion the Arizona Supreme Court cited Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 524 (1979). Which holds the need to satisfy constitutional requirement presumptions in criminal cases must be rebuttable, enabling either side to provide evidence or argument that challenges or opposes the presumption. Thereby The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed decisions made by all previous courts, Municipal, Superior, and Appeals Court of Arizona, which was to allow the exculpatory evidence regarding partition ratio variability to be admitted to show the defendant’s lack of impairment.

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Why Missouri v. McNeely won’t have much impact in Maricopa County
1066864_police_cruiser.jpgA recent U.S. Supreme Court decision may not change Arizona DUI law, but it may bring the rest of the nation more in line with Arizona’s policies.

Phoenix AZ court’s Search Warrant Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for police to obtain a warrant via “eSearch”. According to Phoenix Police, an officer can now obtain a search warrant within minutes. So the fact that the body’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels naturally decrease over time should not compel police, to bypass a search warrant. This is because the BAC levels take hours to decline, and will not be reduced drastically within 10 minutes.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that police must obtain a warrant before forcing someone suspected of drunk driving to take a blood test. The US Supreme Court’s decision was that the mere fact that the body reduces BAC levels over time, is in and of itself not an “exigent” circumstance, and that each case should be decided based on it’s own set of facts.

Generally, a warrantless search of a person (including invasive searches of the body like a blood test) is considered reasonable if it falls into a recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In Arizona, the police are required to obtain a warrant in order to proceed with a blood test.

One such exception exists when the “exigencies of the situation” present such a compelling law enforcement need that it is objectively reasonable for an officer to bypass getting a warrant. The Supreme Court found no such exception here.

The case arose when a state trooper saw the defendant driving erratically. When the state trooper pulled him over, the defendant refused to take a Breathalyzer test, so the officer drove him to a nearby hospital and ordered him to take a blood test to measure his alcohol levels.

The officer did not seek a warrant to test the defendant’s blood and it turned out he had very high blood alcohol levels. When the defendant was put on trial, he moved to suppress the results of the blood test on the grounds that it had violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The State of Missouri argued that the officer’s failure to obtain a warrant was due to exigent circumstances that demanded he depart from the usual rule requiring a warrant. According to the State, because alcohol in the bloodstream slowly and predictably reduces with time, the evidence of the defendant’s DUI would be lost or destroyed during the time it would have taken to get a warrant. Missouri’s guidelines apparently allowed police officers broad discretion about whether to order a blood test under such circumstances.

The Supreme Court disagreed with the State’s argument, stating that under most conditions, there is enough time to get a warrant to test blood by using email or cellphones to contact the magistrate. Justice Sotomayor wrote that whether an emergency made it necessary to forgo the warrant would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis with justification being offered in court later.

Around the same time that the Supreme Court heard this case, Phoenix police sped up the search warrant process by installing a program in all police patrol car computers called eSearch Warrant Application. This allows an officer to send a warrant from the car directly to a judge, who can approve or reject the document on a laptop from the bench. The application was first installed in seven police DUI vans last fall.

The expediency of the warrant process using this software application makes it more critical than ever that if you are pulled over for drunk driving, you call an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer to handle your case. Contact the experienced Phoenix DUI attorneys of The Law Offices of James Novak at (480) 413-1499 to build a solid defense.

Additional Resources
Arizona DUI Laws
Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety
National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration

More Blogs
Prescription Drug DUI Charges, Phoenix DUI Lawyer Blog, January 28, 2013
Marijuana DUI: The Impact of Montgomery v. Harris in Arizona, Phoenix DUI Lawyer Blog, March 13, 2013

DUI lawyer Chandler AZ.jpg5 reasons police conduct Preliminary Breath Tests

Arizona is one of a majority of states with Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) Laws.

The PBT is a small mobile device used to establish the presence of alcohol in a person’s system. The PBT is intended to be used as an early detection or screening tool by police. Arizona does not allow a PBT to be admitted as evidence in court against a person accused of DUI, because the machines historically are not considered accurate in measuring exact Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Levels. In addition, PBT units are not calibrated or routinely maintained like the official Breath Tests Machines.

Arizona Portable Breath Test (PBT) Law

Under A.R.S. 28 § 1322 Preliminary Breath Test law a police officer who has reasonable suspicion to believe a person is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has authority to request that a person submit to a preliminary breath test.

Under this law, the officer may also require the person to submit to further testing
pursuant to the Implied Consent Law A.R.S. 28 § 1321. This includes DUI blood, breath, urine testing.

5 reasons PBTs are commonly used in Arizona

The National Highway Safety Administration recognizes that although the PBT is useful, it is not admissible as sole evidence to determine BAC; but is generally reliable in determining if any alcohol at all is present in a person’s system. Arizona courts do consider PBT evidence to be admissible in court as evidence against a defendant facing DUI charges. Below the police may likely choose a PBT in a DUI field investigation:

• To determine or rule out DUI influence of alcohol v. drugs;
• Drivers who may have a high alcohol tolerance level, and can perform field sobriety tests or other tasks to a greater degree than those with lower tolerance levels;
• To detect if an underage 21 person is under the influence of any alcohol in violation of the state’s Zero Tolerance law;
• As a preliminary DUI screening test only; and if positive, will be followed up with an Official Breath Test Machine.
• At the scene of a DUI collision where the driver is suspected of DUI, but has been injured and is unable to perform Standard Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs).

Criminal Defense for DUI Chandler AZ

Arizona laws and penalties are some of the toughest in the country. If you have been arrested for any type of DUI you should always consult a qualified criminal attorney to discuss your charges. You should do this before you appear in court or plead guilty to the charges. You have the constitutional right to defend your charges, and this is done by pleading not guilty and retaining proper legal representation. There may be defenses that you are not aware of that if used, may lead to a dismissal of charges, sentencing, or other favorable outcome in your case.

Additional Resources:

Arizona State Legislature – Portable Breath Test Laws A.R.S. 28 § 1322

Arizona State Legislature – Implied Consent Laws A.R.S. 28 § 1321

Arizona Department of State – Public Safety – Determining Alcohol Concentration

Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety – DUI laws

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In Carillo v. Houser Maricopa County, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the Implied Consent Law, A.R.S. § 28-1321 did not authorize police to conduct DUI blood testing without a warrant. The exception is if the suspect expressly gives their consent for officers to administer the chemical test.
It is not enough for a suspect to object to the blood or urine test. They must expressly refuse, or consent to it. Failure of a person to expressly agree, or to consent to completing the chemical test is considered a refusal.

If a driver refuses a DUI breath test the police may obtain a warrant to collect a blood or urine sample. In order to obtain a warrant the police must have “probable cause” to believe that a motorist was driving impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If a driver refuses to participate in the chemical testing, there are civil and criminal consequences. A refusal of a DUI chemical testing with a valid warrant will result in a 12 month suspension of the motorist’s driver’s license. The police may proceed with a DUI arrest with probable cause for DUI charges.

Arizona Implied Consent Law

Under the Implied Consent Law A.R.S. § 28-1321 a motorist driving in Arizona inherently gives their consent to DUI breath, blood or urine test if requested by police to determine if they are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The Police Officer who makes the DUI stop decides what type of test should be administered. The officer must have cause to believe that the person was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle either alcohol or drugs.

Implied Consent Law – Underage 21 Drinking

Arizona is a “Zero Tolerance” state with regard to underage 21 drinking. This means an underage drinker may be arrested for being under the influence of any alcohol in their blood stream. The Implied Consent Law A.R.S. § 28-1321 also gives authority to police in Arizona to administer chemical testing to a person under the age of 21 years of age. They police may administer the test to determine if the person under age 21 has in their body, whether or not they were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle.

DUI Lawyer Tempe AZ – Defense

If you were arrested for DUI based on breath or blood testing, there may defenses you are not aware of that can lead to suppression of evidence or even a dismissal of charges. An arrest is not a conviction. Anyone arrested has a constitutional right to defend their charges. In order to make sure your rights are protected, and to defend your charges, you should always retain the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Additional Resources:

Arizona Legislature Implied Consent Law

Arizona Legislature DUI law

Arizona Supreme Court JOSE CARRILLO v. HON. ROBERT HOUSER Ref: CV-09-0285-PR
Arizona Department of Transportation

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DUI Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests are a battery of preliminary roadside test that police administer to detect DUI drivers. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed to these roadside tests to be used in early detection of DUI impaired, and DWI drivers. Police officers who ar formally trained and accredited to administer the tests, conduct them on the roadside following a DUI stop. The police must have the consent of the driver in order to administer them. These tests are not mandatory under current Arizona state law.
Standard Field Sobriety Test

Police officers have been known to conduct other DUI sobriety tests. However, NHTSA has only approved three official FSTs, known as Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST)s. They are:

1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN);
2. The Walk-and-Turn;
3. The One-Leg Stand.

If any other FSTs were conducted, outside of the SFSTs, your criminal defense attorney can move to have the results suppressed, so the results cannot be admitted as evidence against a suspect.

Consequences of Refusing Field Sobriety Testing in Tempe AZ

A driver stopped for DUI investigation, has the right to refuse the FSTs since they are not mandatory in Arizona. However, persons should be aware, that there are consequences of refusal. If you refuse the FST and the police feel they have other “probable cause” to make a DUI arrest, the may proceed with arresting someone on “suspicion of DUI”.

Why Criminal Defense Attorneys Advise Against Them in Tempe AZ

Most attorneys will advise you to politely refuse to participate in any Field Sobriety Testing. You have a constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. In most cases these roadside tests will not serve to help a suspect’s defense, whether they are driving impaired due to alcohol or drugs or unimpaired. There are many reasons for this:

• Historically, and statistically, even the Standard FSTs have proven inaccurate.
• The FSTs are administered, judged, and graded unilaterally by police officer who is trying to arrest you, often resulting in bias or non-objectivity of results.
• Many people unimpaired by alcohol or drugs cannot pass the roadside tests. If the suspect fails, it can be used as evidence against them, even if they were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• NHTSA rules have strict guidelines regarding instructions and administration of the test; environmental factors; lighting; clothing; landscaping; traffic conditions; candidacy of persons taking it that relate to age, weight, medical conditions and more. If strict guidelines are not followed, the tests results may be invalid.
• They are generally used as evidence against a person and rarely if ever help their defense.

If you were charged with DUI, and either participated in Roadside DUI testing or refused to participate in them, you should consult a DUI attorney to discuss your case. If retained they will defend your charges, and protect your rights through the criminal justice process. There may be defenses you are not aware of that could lead to a dismissal of charges; suppression of evidence; or reduction of penalties.

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