Articles Tagged with DUI defenses

Arizona Court of Appeals: Mistake of Law must be Objectively Reasonable to Avoid Suppression of Evidence obtained after the Stop

police-stop-unlawful-2-300x203Can an Arizona Police Officer’s misreading of a clear and unambiguous law give rise to reasonable suspicion, thereby making a stop lawful?

This was a question for a recent Arizona Appeals Court to decide. In the case, the court considered whether a deputy had reasonable suspicion to stop a driver because the officer thought the rear display light on his vehicle was unlawful.

This article takes a closer look at how defense successfully challenged an unlawful police stop due to the police officer’s mistake of law with these topics:

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

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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.

Impact of Appeals Court Ruling on Arizona Drivers

Your Guide to understanding the DUI blood test with medical treatment warrant exception.

A DUI blood test taken by Police for investigating impairment is considered a search and seizure, protected by our 4th Amendment rights.

dui-blood-test-110-300x300This means that to obtain DUI blood or chemical evidence police would need either consent; or a warrant to order a DUI blood or chemical test.

There are exceptions to the requirement of a warrant. One of these exceptions under Arizona Law is DUI blood test or testing incidental to medical treatment.

Police can request a blood or chemical test be taken for criminal investigation reasons incidental to Medical Treatment.

This exception is often used following an accident, when the police suspect the driver may have been impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

If the police have probable cause, they can bypass a warrant, and request a DUI blood or chemical test from the medical provider treating the driver.

Under A.R.S. section 28-1388(E), if an Arizona police officer has probable cause to believe someone has violated the statute that prohibits driving under the influence (A.R.S. S 28-1381), and blood or another bodily substance is taken from that person, and enough of the sample that is sufficient for analysis will be provided to a police officer if requested for law enforcement objectives.

However, a DUI blood test cannot be requested by police if the suspect has expressly rejected medical care.

Precedent case rulings on this issue have held that if the treatment is not obtained voluntarily, than neither was the DUI blood test.

The scope of this exception was the subject of a recent Arizona appellate decision which we will discuss in this article.

                            DUI Testing with Medical Treatment in absence of a Warrant

[Arizona Court of Appeals Division 1 – No. 1 CA-CR 12-0780 10-20-15]

In this case, the defendant appealed from convictions for reckless manslaughter, Medical-Symbol-31-264x300 endangerment, and possession of narcotic drugs. The defendant argued that the court shouldn’t have denied his motion to suppress his blood test results, which were secured for law enforcement objectives under A.R.S. section 28-1388(E).

The case arose when the defendant hurt four people and killed a pedestrian in a head-on collision while speeding in a residential area early one evening. Hospital personnel took blood from him, and the blood test results showed he was high on meth and heroin at the time of the crash. Witnesses later gave testimony about his erratic driving and related conduct.

The defendant was charged with second-degree murder, possession, or use of narcotics, and four counts of endangerment. All of these are felony counts.  A motion to suppress the blood test evidence was filed by his defense, on the grounds that it was obtained without a warrant, and that he had expressly refused medical care at the time.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the defendant did not testify, but the court heard testimony from six witnesses. The witnesses, who were police officers and paramedics, testified that a nurse was tending to the defendant when they arrived. He was flailing and screaming and wouldn’t answer questions. One officer had been an EMT before becoming a police officer and testified that the defendant’s speech was slurred and that she couldn’t understand him in his delirium. Another officer saw syringes and an uncapped needle inside the car.

The defendant aggressively pushed away the paramedics and tried to hit them with a closed fist. However, the paramedics testified that due to the severity of his injuries, they needed a doctor’s clearance to not take him to the hospital, and they couldn’t get that. They effectively transported him against his will. He continued to be aggressive in the ambulance. Another officer said his behavior was consistent with someone drunk or high.

At the hearing for the motion to suppress, the lower court found that while it was possible to view the defendant’s conduct as a rejection of medical care, it wasn’t enough to count as a clear, unambiguous rejection of medical treatment. Accordingly, the lower court denied the motion to suppress the blood test.

The jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to 15 years for the manslaughter, as well as three years of imprisonment on each of the other convictions. He appealed.

The appellate court explained that a blood draw is considered a search under the Fourth Amendment. There are three constitutionally permissible ways in which police can get a blood sample: (1) by showing probable cause and getting a warrant, (2) express or implied consent, and (3) the exception provided by A.R.S. section 28-1388(E) that allows a police officer with probable cause to take part of a blood sample taken for another reason. However, the third way cannot be used if someone unambiguously, clearly, and expressly exercises their constitutional right to refuse medical treatment.

The issues before the appellate court were (1) whether the State had probable cause to believe there was a violation of A.R.S. S 28-1381, and (2) whether there was an express refusal of medical treatment. The appellate court found that the testimony of the officers showed there was probable cause. It found that there was no evidence to show the police asked that the defendant be taken to the hospital. There were also no oral statements made by the defendant specifically asking not to get medical assistance. The conviction was affirmed.

Updated March 13, 2017 

On February 1, 2017 the Arizona Supreme Court remanded the Maricopa County Superior court decision, and vacated the Appeals Court decision.

The Arizona Supreme Court held that the prosecution is required to prove that the defendant provided an express or implied consent to medical treatment.   If the defendant was unable to verbalize or otherwise express their consent, the state must prove that paramedics did not act against the suspect’s right to direct their own medical treatment.

The Court held that the evidence of record did not clearly or conclusively show that the suspect was capable or in a state of mind to direct his own medical treatment.   Further the the record did not show that the EMTs acted within the or against the rights of the suspect to make a decision about his medical care.

As a result the Court remanded for continuance of proceedings to the trial court to make the determination of whether or not police obtained the blood sample legally, based on specified standards.  These standards included     1) probable cause of DUI; 2) exigent circumstances; 3) blood draw was for a medical purpose; and 4) the paramedics did not violate the right of the suspect to make the decision regarding whether or not to consent to the medical treatment.

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Overview of the Ruling; Strategies for Defense and Prevention of Repeat DUI Arrests

mountain-road-1424189-m-1 Approximately 37 million people visit Arizona each year, and 16 million of those visit the Phoenix Metro   area.   Whether they are here to vacation, attend school or sporting events, or to see the attractions our State has to offer, many will be driving.

Unfortunately, some will be arrested for impaired driving.  Suddenly, what was supposed to be a fun and enjoyable trip turns into a nightmare.

One of the most common questions a person asks after being arrested for a repeat offense, if they are visiting or a new resident to Arizona is “How will my prior DUI received in another state, impact my current DUI charges?”      

Recently, an Arizona Appeals court addressed prior DUI charges involving out-of-state DUI convictions.  The Appellate court considered whether a prior out-of-state DUI conviction would be used to reclassify charges to a felony for a third DUI conviction.

In this case  the defendant had been charged with two counts of aggravated DUI, two counts of aggravated driving with a BAC of .08 or more and aggravated assault on a peace officer.

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video-camera-1412649-mA Tragic Video Confession

You might remember the viral video of an Arizona man, 22 year old Matthew Cordle, who caused a fatal drunk driving accident. He provided a confession in a four-minute online video that went viral with 2.3 million views last September.

Cordle began his chilling confession with “My name is Matthew Cordle and on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani. This video will act as my confession.”

Vincent Canzani 61, was the father of two daughters, and a former USA Naval Submarine Veteran. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Immediately following the crash, Cordle was taken to the hospital for his injuries. But at that time he denied being intoxicated, driving impaired, or causing the fatal accident.

Cordle confessed in the video, that he was driving the wrong way on an interstate, and crashed into Vincent Canzani vehicle.

In the video was the blurred face of man, Cordle, admitting to barhopping, blacking out and driving home drunk. Cordle explained that he had been drinking heavily before getting behind the wheel, and blacked out just before losing control of his vehicle.

Cordle had not yet been charged at the time the video was made, but was expecting the charges to be brought based on the DUI blood test results.

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Driving under the influence of a legal drug in Arizona is not solely a defense for DUI.

1421532_pills_drugs.jpgLast year, the Arizona Department of Public Safety revealed that prescription drugs were increasingly being found in the blood and urine tests of individuals who have been pulled over or arrested in Arizona and suspected of DUI. Prescription drug abuse is a common problem all over the United States, but Arizona had the sixth highest prescription drug abuse rate for 2010-2011 of all the states.

Because they are prescribed by a doctor, people often do not realize that misused or abused prescription drugs can be as dangerous as illegal recreational drugs like heroin or cocaine. It is important to be aware, however, that you can be charged in Arizona with driving or being in physical control of a vehicle while on certain prescription drugs, or while a “metabolite” of the drug is in your body. Recent Arizona case holds that it does not matter whether you are actually impaired by the drug.

Even if you appear to be driving safely, the State can prove your guilt simply by proving that any drug that is listed on the schedule of “dangerous drugs”, “narcotic drugs”, or “prescription-only drugs” were in your system. Under Arizona Revised Statute 28-1381, there is a narrow safe harbor defense to a “driving on prescription-only drug charge” under A.R.S.28-1381 D: This is the case, if you were using a drug as prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner, including doctors, dentists, podiatrists and osteopaths. That means you can use this defense if you took the amount that was prescribed by a physician, but you may not be able to use it if you took more.

In a prescription drug case last year, the appellate court was asked to explain just what was entailed by this defense. Several issues were in question: Does the burden of proof to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the prescription drug use was not justified–also called a justification defense? Or is it the responsibility of the person accused to mount an affirmative defense in which he must prove that he did not abuse prescription drugs, but used them according to a doctor’s directions? Or is the lack of a prescription or use of the drug against what a prescription says a key element of the crime? If it is a key element of the crime, it is something the State must prove in order to secure a guilty verdict.

The defendant was initially charged in municipal court for driving with Methadone, Klonopin and Ritalin (prescription-only drugs) in his body. The latter of these two are drugs that are commonly taken daily in order to treat psychiatric conditions like ADD and anxiety. Like illegal recreational drugs, however, these common prescription drugs can have powerful effects on one’s attention span, motor skills and focus. Klonopin is sometimes even taken to treat insomnia.

Fannin challenges the superior court’s holding that A.R.S. § 28-1381(D) creates an affirmative defense requiring him to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was using the drug as prescribed by a medical practitioner.

The municipal court ruled that the defendant had to make an initial showing that provided by a preponderance of the evidence that he was taking the drugs as prescrbed by a medical practitioner under the law. If successful, only then would the burden of proof shift to the State to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he was not. The State filed a special action petition with the superior court challenging the municipal court’s ruling. The superior court agreed with the State that the defendant was raising an affirmative defense, which attempts to excuse a defendant of the criminal action, for which they would otherwise be held accountable. By doing this, it places the burden of proof on the defendant.

The defendant appealed, asking the appellate court to answer the question of what kind of defense the safe harbor for prescription drugs was. The appellate court reasoned that the defense here was an exception to the general rule that it is a crime to drive with prescription-only drugs in one’s system. But the court established that A.R.S. 28 – 1381 (D) was in fact an Affirmative Defense. But the defendant failed to mount an Affirmative Defense. Relief was not granted on that basis.

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“Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle” Tempe AZ

In Arizona, under A.R.S. § 28-1381 and A.R.S. § 28-1382 a person a person may be charged with a DUI if they are impaired due to alcohol or drugs, and in “Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle (APC)”. A Supreme Court decision Arizona v. Zaragoza actually made it easier to charged persons who are not actually driving with a DUI. It held that in determining if a person is in APC, a totality of circumstance supported by evidence of whether a person is currently or imminently in control of a vehicle; and whether or not that control presented a real danger to themselves or others. The Supreme Court stated that although the State of Arizona did not define APC, it could be considered on a case’s own merits based on the totality of certain factors.


AZ DUI Laws: Determining Factors for Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle

Under A.R.S. § 28-1381 and A.R.S. § 28-1382: It is a violation of the law for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while impaired, due intoxicating alcohol or drugs. Since AZ DUI Laws do not define this standard, alternative jury instructions were provided by the court in Arizona v. Zaragoza. The jury used these guidelines to conclude their verdict. These guidelines are currently being used. (List not all inclusive):

• Whether or not the vehicle was running;
• Whether or not the key was in the ignition;
• Whether or not the ignition was turned on;
• Where the key to the ignition was located;
• Where the driver was found in the vehicle by police;
• What position the driver was found in;
• Conscious state of the person, awake or sleeping;
• Whether or not the vehicle’s headlights were on;
• Where the vehicle was found or stopped;
• Location of the vehicle;
• Whether it appeared that the driver pulled over voluntarily or not;
• Day or night, and time the person was found;
• Climate and Weather conditions;
• Whether the vehicle’s heat or air conditioner was running; Windows down or up;
• Any other reasonable explanation that can be supported by the evidence for a reason the driver was found under the circumstances.


DUI Lawyer Tempe AZ

The penalties in Arizona are a harsh as the DUI laws are strict. All DUI convictions currently result in jail terms, ignition interlock devices on vehicles, alcohol/drug counseling and treatment. If you or someone you know were arrested for DUI charges, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case, and options for defense. There may be defenses you are not aware of that if used, may help you get a favorable outcome in your case; avoid jail time; and help you get your driving privileges reinstated.

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