Establishing Driver “Impairment” in DUI Cases

Gilbert DUI Lawyer.jpgEstablishing driver impairment is the most challenging element of a DUI
Elements of a DUI

There are three elements of a DUI charge in Arizona. Establishing impairment is the third, and most difficult to confirm. First, the facts need to establish that the motorist must be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle. Second, the police must determine if a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Third, the police must establish that a person’s ability to drive was “Impaired to the slightest degree” or more as a result of drugs, alcohol or any combination of drugs and alcohol.

Driving “Impairment” Defined

The Arizona Department of Public Safety defines a “driver impairment” resulting from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol as:

“A reduction in the performance of critical driving tasks”
To determine if the motorist is experiencing a reduction of performance, the police are required to follow certain procedures and protocol. The officer will need to have “probable cause” to believe the driver is impaired due to drugs or alcohol.

Determining Driver Impairment

Determining an impairment of a driver is less fact oriented and less objective than determining their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level. BAC levels can be obtained through use of a breathalyzer test or a chemical test such as DUI blood test.

Here are some tools the police will use to determine if a driver is impaired:

1. The motorist driving behaviors prior to the stop;
2. Police observations of the motorist at the time of, and following the stop;
3. Mannerisms and responses of the motorist to questions asked by the officer;
4. Ability of the motorist to follow instructions;
5. Statements or admittance made by motorist to police;
6. Passenger or objective witness statements;
7. DUI Roadside Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) developed by NHTSA:
a. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Eye Test
b. On-Leg Stand Test;
c. Walk-and-Turn Test
These factors, particularly the DUI Roadside Testing FSTs are often challenged; considered biased and police opinionated, by the defense. This is because the police explain the test; provide instructions; administer the tests, and then grade the tests.

Arizona DUI Laws

Under Arizona law A.R.S. §28.1381, a motorist may be arrested for DUI, if they are driving below the legal limit of 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC); or if they are under the influence of drugs, and are “impaired to the slightest degree”. Criminal Charges will be brought as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

Criminal Defense Firm for DUI charges Tempe AZ

You should always consult a criminal defense attorney if you were arrested for any type of DUI charges. The penalties are harsh for convictions, even for firs time Drug DUI and DUI “Impaired to the slightest degree”. Sentencing is the same as those for DUI in excess of the legal limit of 0.08% BAC, but before 0.15%. Penalties include jail term of 10 days; driver’s license suspension for 90 days; use of Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on their vehicles; alcohol or drug screening and education; probation; fines, fees, and assessment costs. You will need a qualified and experienced legal advocate to defend your charges, make sure your rights are protected, and work to resolve the charges with a favorable outcome.

Additional Resources:

Arizona Department of Public Safety

Arizona State Legislature – Revised Statutes

Maricopa County Superior Court – Criminal Case Information

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