Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Defenses

Voluntariness VS. Submission to Lawful Assertion by Authority

Breathalyzer-Test-1--300x232In the recent ruling the Arizona Supreme Court considered a Fourth Amendment issue and Arizona’s implied consent law in DUI case.

The cases centered around two primary issues.  The first was whether or not  consent to a warrantless search was voluntary, after suspect agreed to submit to it, only after the officer instructed him repeatedly about the law.

The next question for the court was whether or not the advisement by the police officer was given in good faith when the officer believed that his conduct was lawful and not in violation of the suspect’s 4th Amendment rights.

This article provides a case overview, legal principles that applied, and the additional related resource information:

  • Impact of Ruling on Arizona Drivers;
  • Good Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule;
  • Arizona Courts on what Constitutes Voluntary Consent to Search;
  • Answers to the question surrounding “Should I consent to a DUI Test in Arizona?”;
  • 10 Common Defenses for DUI Charges in Arizona

Continue reading

Arizona Court of Appeals considers reasonableness in accommodating suspect’s request for counsel before breathalyzer test.

breathalyzer-2-1240974-1-e1454513352659-292x300If you are arrested for a DUI, you have a right to request an attorney’s assistance right away.  But how much time are you given to find an attorney before you are given a Breathalyzer?

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case, the defendant was convicted of aggravated DUI, for driving while impaired with a license that was suspended or revoked.

The Defendant appealed the convictions with several challenges.  The central argument was that the trial court had erred in denying his motion to suppress the results of a breathalyzer test due to being deprived of his right to counsel.

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

“The purpose of a DUI Task Force is to seek out and arrest persons driving drunk, or driving impaired due to alcohol or drugs. The laws regarding routine DUI stops and DUI Task Force Stops are very different. To preserve your rights and defenses you should know the differences.”

Difference between DUI Task Force Stops and DUI Stops

The difference between a regular DUI “pull over while driving” stop and a DUI Task Force Stop are the circumstances that lead to the initial DUI stop. In a DUI roadblock situation, Police do not need “reasonable suspicion” that someone is driving drunk or DUI, in order to stop a vehicle.

A routine DUI stop occurs when the driver is “pulled over” in absence of a DUI Task Force Situation. In a routine DUI stop, the police must have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is in progress or other violation of the law has occurred. This standard has been upheld by the US Supreme Court, as held by the rights given under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If a person is stopped for DUI or any other crime in absence of “reasonable suspicion” that a crime or violation is in progress or has occurred, then the stop is unlawful. Subsequently, it would be considered a violation of the driver’s rights.
DUI Task Forces are organized and conducted according to The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), and along with City or State Laws in place for DUI Task Force Stops. The purpose of a DUI Task Force is to seek out and arrest persons driving drunk, or “driving impaired to the slightest degree” due to alcohol or drugs. No one is immune to the stop. In most cases, The vehicles to be stop at are decided in advance by city, or county officials and their respective law enforcement Agencies. The NHTSA guidelines require that the determination be made on the basis of a mathematical or numeric formula, for example, every vehicle, or every 2nd vehicle. According to the NHTSA guidelines, the determination must be made by means of some sort of mathematical formula. For example, they will stop every first, third, or every other vehicle passing through the DUI roadblock. Police need no other reason to make the checkpoint DUI stop.


Arizona DUI Penalties

Generally, there is no difference in penalties sentencing for convictions resulting from DUI Task Force arrest and a routine DUI Task Force Arrest. Arizona has some of the toughest DUI penalties in the country. Currently they include 24 hours jail time; suspension of driver’s license for 90 days; interlock device installation; fines, fees, costs; drug or alcohol screening or counseling and other penalties ordered by the court. Penalties increase in severity for higher Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels and repeat DUI offense.

DUI Lawyer for Defense, Gilbert AZ
If you face DUI charges in Maricopa County, you should consult an Arizona criminal defense attorney regarding your charges, and defense options. If retained an experienced DUI attorney will review the facts of your case. They may find that there are defenses that can be used to challenge the evidence or charges in your matter. If the DUI stop was unlawful, it is considered to be a violation of your constitutional rights. In that event, any evidence gathered after that stop may be prohibited by the court from being used against you as evidence. This severely weakens the prosecution’s case, and usually results in DUI case dismissal. Any defenses are the most effective, when presented by a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer. They will defend your charges; protect your rights; and represent you throughout the DUI case stages to obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your case.

Continue reading