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Here is a scenario we have seen plenty of times by people stopped for DUI. You’re driving home from happy hour, you look into your review mirror, and you see the red and blue flashing lights of a Phoenix police officer. What do you do now?
Here’s your step-by-step guide if you’re stopped for DUI to making it through that traffic stop, limiting the information the State can use against you, and protecting your rights.
1. Quickly and Safely Stop Your Vehicle
When you have become aware that law enforcement is attempting to conduct a traffic stop, it is important for you to signal your cooperation and do the following:
- Come to a stop as quickly and safely as possible.
- Immediately turn on your turn signal and find a safe place to pull over.
- Turn off the ignition in your vehicle and turn on your hazard lights.
- Turn off the radio.
- Turn on the overhead light if it is dark.
- For your safety, keep your hands where the officer can see them, and don’t make any sudden moves.
Remembering to try and follow these steps can make a big difference in the police officer’s initial approach.
2. What to Say and When to Keep Silent
You are legally required to identify yourself to the officer and to provide them with the required documents. Provide the officer with your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance when requested. If you do not have a driver’s license, provide your full name and date of birth.
Once you have identified yourself, you have the right to refuse to answer any further questions.
It is almost always in your best interest to keep silent and not answer any questions. It is important that you remain calm and civil with the officer. You should politely inform the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent and that you won’t answer any questions.
3. What about the Field Sobriety Tests
If the officer suspects that you may have been drinking, they will want to administer standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) as part of their DUI investigation. These SFSTs were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as a tool for officers to detect impaired drivers. The three SFSTs used by police officers in Arizona are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the Walk and Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test.
HGN is often known as the “eye test.” It consists of the officer moving a stimulus, most often a pen or their finger, back and forth across your face as they watch how your eyes track the stimulus. The Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand tests are intended to test both your balance and your ability to divide your attention between tasks.
Many times, people will think they “passed” the sobriety tests, when in fact the officer noted several “clues” that the State will argue are indications of impairment. That is because these are not “pass” or “fail” tests. Instead, they are intended to provide the officer with the opportunity to gather evidence to use against you as proof of impairment.
It is important to know that you do not have to submit to the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
You can and should decline to take any of these tests. The officer may tell you that he wants to make sure you can drive safely, or that if you take the tests you may not be arrested, or he may not ask or say anything at all and simply start administering the tests. It is never in your best interest to take these tests. You will never help yourself by taking these tests. You should politely tell the officer that you will not take any of the standardized field sobriety tests.
Sometimes, at the scene, the officer will ask you to blow into a portable breath test instrument. Portable breath tests, or breathalyzers, are not admissible in court, and you do not have to submit to this test. Again, the officer is simply trying to gather information to justify their arrest.
4. Breath and Blood Tests
If the officer determines that they have probable cause to believe that you are impaired after being stopped for DUI, you will likely be arrested for driving under the influence. It is important to remain calm and cooperative.
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The officer will read you the Admin Per Se Implied Consent form and ask you if you will consent to a breath or blood test for the purpose of determining alcohol concentration or the presence of some other drug. This form is developed by the Arizona Department of Transportation, and it reminds you that by accepting an Arizona Driver’s License you have agreed to submit to substance testing if you are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you refuse to consent to the breath or blood test, your privilege to drive will be automatically suspended for one year.
It is important to note that this breath or DUI blood test is different than a portable breath test that is done at the scene and there are different considerations when deciding whether to consent to this test.
If you refuse the breath or blood tests, the officer will petition the court for a search warrant to obtain the blood sample without your consent. Since the officer has already determined that they had probable cause to arrest you, it is likely that the court will also find probable cause and grant the search warrant.
Because of the additional administrative penalty of a one-year suspension on your driver’s license and the likelihood of the officer securing a search warrant to obtain a blood sample, it is in your best interest to consent to the breath and/or blood test.
It is vital, however, to request to speak to an attorney as soon as possible, prior to submitting to the breath or blood test.
The officer is then required to provide you with a phone and phone book if you request one. The attorney will then advise you to take the blood or breath test, to remain silent, and to ask to be released for an independent blood test. If they do not allow you to speak to an attorney, the remedy will be a suppression of the blood or breath test results if you are released. However, if you are booked into jail overnight, the remedy for denial of the right to counsel is a dismissal of the case. But you must affirmatively and clearly request to speak to an attorney.
If you are released, you should go to the nearest hospital to obtain an independent test of your blood.
5. Your Miranda Rights and Police Interview
After you have been stopped for DUI and have been detained, the officer should inform you of your Miranda Rights. They will also want to conduct a standardized interview and ask you questions about whether and when you were drinking and whether you feel as if the alcohol is affecting you at all.
Remember that you have the right to keep silent and to refuse to answer any questions.
You should invoke your constitutional rights by telling the officer that you will not answer any questions without the presence of a lawyer. When you say that, the officer should immediately stop asking you questions. If they do not, simply repeat the invocation of your right to remain silent.
Here is an easy sentence to memorize in order to safeguard your constitutional rights: “I am invoking my right to silence and will not answer any questions without the presence of my lawyer.” Then call us!
6. What’s Next? Now We Fight For You!
Depending on the circumstances, the officer may book you into jail or they may give you a citation and release you. Either way, it is important for you to hire an experienced DUI attorney to fight for you.
While every case is unique and past performance is not a guarantee of future success, the attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta, PLLC, have combined decades of experience in fighting and beating DUI charges.
About The Author
Timothy Hintze is a well-respected and aggressive trial lawyer having represented clients in courts throughout the state of Arizona. He has litigated hundreds of criminal matters ranging from complex felony cases to misdemeanor offenses, as well as a dedicated advocate for family law clients. Tim was also awarded the distinction of being named a Super Lawyers Rising Star and selected by the National Trial Lawyers Association as a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney.
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