Arizona and every other state has DUI laws that are meant to stop drivers from getting behind the wheel of a car after a few glasses of wine, or beer, or alcohol. The limit in our state, sometimes referred to as "legal limit," is .08%. The best advice any attorney can give you is: don't drink and drive. Period. Imagine how many cab rides you can pay for with the money you'd spend on fines and attorneys' fees in a DUI case.
Let's say, though, you've left the party thinking you're okay to drive only to have the flashing red and blues greet you. How to handle the DUI stop? First, stay in your car unless the officer asks you to step out and if you have your seat belt on, leave it on. Second, know these ten things:
- Provide identification. The officer will ask for your driver's license and registration. How easily you find these items will be noted on the officer's report. If you fumble around for them, it will look like you've had too much to drink.
- Politely refuse to take field tests. Field tests for DUI are: walking the line, touching your finger to your nose, counting on your fingers, saying your ABCs, holding your leg up while counting, and HGN, the one where the officer asks you to follow a light with your eyes. When you do field tests, you are giving evidence that will be used against you. There is no law requiring you to do the tests. Some officers will tell you they will take you to jail if you don't do the tests. Don't fall for it. They were going to take you to jail anyway.
- If asked, politely explain that you will not agree to a search of your car. If the officer has to ask you to agree, it's a red flag. Just say no. If an officer has enough reason to get a search warrant, he or she will. If not, then why search? Usually, the question will come at you like: You don't mind if I look in your car, do you? You don't have a problem with my looking in your car? I'm just going to take a quick look inside, okay? Say no--politely, but firmly--and don't explain. And hope your no makes it into the report.
- Politely refuse to answer questions. Usually, the officer will ask you a few questions about what you've had to drink and then move on to more questions later at the station. Your best response is: "I can only answer your questions on the advice of my attorney." You don't have to call an attorney right then. The statement effectively stops any questioning of you by invoking your constitutional rights. Even when the officer reads Miranda rights to you, the answer should be the same.
- Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate. Cooperation means having a good attitude and being polite. It doesn't mean answering questions or doing field tests or talking. Your attitude, appearance and words all become part of the officer's report. Your disposition indicates your level of intoxication. This is not the time to crack jokes, cry, apologize or confess.
- Take a breath, blood or urine test if one is offered. When your driver's license was issued, you agreed to take such a test if you were ever pulled over. It's called the Implied Consent Law and even if you don't remember agreeing, you did. If you don't take the test, your license will be suspended for a minimum of one year, even if you are not convicted of DUI. If you take the test and the reading is greater than .08%, your license will be suspended from 30 to 90 days. After the investigation on the street, the officer will usually take you to the station or to a testing site. Some cities will offer you a blood test, others will offer a breath test. If your test shows your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be less than .08%, you may not be charged. If you are, you might be able to later have the case dismissed. If your BAC is .08% to .14%, you will be charged with DUI, and DUI with a BAC over .08%. If your BAC is .15% or more, you will be charged with DUI, DUI with BAC over .08%, and Extreme DUI.
- After completing the test, the officer may give you a form that asks whether you want to preserve a sample of your test or waive a sample. NEVER waive! Always ask that a sample be preserved if you are given that choice.
- As soon as you are released, go to a hospital, a lab, or call your doctor to arrange to have your own test done immediately. If that test shows a lower BAC, you can use it in your case. If the level is the same or higher, you need not provide that information to the prosecutor.
- If you don't want to lose your license, ask for a hearing at the Motor Vehicle Division within fifteen days. The officer will give you a form when he or she takes your license. This Admin Per Se/Implied Consent Affidavit has a paragraph telling you how to request a hearing. If you are charged with DUI, you are not required to have an attorney. In some cases, a court will appoint one for you. At any stage in the process, you might choose to hire an attorney to help you with your case. If you understand intoxilyzers and how they operate, you can handle the case yourself. If you can interview police officers and question witnesses at trial, you can handle the case yourself. Or if you just feel better walking in and pleading guilty, you can handle the case yourself.
- If you decide to hire an attorney, find one who has experience with DUI cases. Hire a qualified attorney you trust, an attorney you meet in person at your first consultation. A good attorney will personally appear in court on your behalf, interview the officer, gather records, prepare motions, and negotiate with the prosecutor. A good attorney will keep you informed about the progress of your case, but don't expect a daily call! Beware of attorneys you don't meet until your first day in court or who aggressively go head to head with the prosecutor during pretrial negotiations. You need an advocate who won't alienate the other side and paint you into a corner.
Do you really need to take a cab after only one drink? Generally speaking, your blood alcohol level rises about .025% for each drink you have. The actual percent is based on your weight, sex, and other factors. Your body eliminates alcohol over time. There are relatively inexpensive devices, personal breath testing devices, that you can purchase to test your alcohol level. Since all devices have an error factor, absolutely don't drive if yours reads .05% or over. But remember, the state doesn't have to prove you had a .08%, you are guilty if your ability to drive is impaired to the slightest degree.
The safest bet is to always drive sober. You are less likely to need an attorney, pay fines, go to jail, pay higher insurance rates, and lose your driving privilege. When in doubt, call a cab or ride service.
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Guest Author Susan Kayler, a former prosecutor, defense attorney and judge, has more than 20 years of legal experience. Susan currently represents clients in DUI/DWI cases, traffic cases, appeals, photo radar cases, criminal cases and more. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Note: Laws, sentencing, and other processes relative to DUI stops and procedures may change. The content mentioned herein was accurate as of 2016. Contact your attorney to determine if there have been any changes since that time.