What are the legal grounds for being charged with DUI in Arizona?

What are the legal grounds for being charged with DUI in Arizona?  I am Gordon Thompson and today is June 29, 2016, and that is the subject of today’s podcast, namely, what are the legal grounds for being charged with DUI in Arizona?

DUI cases are perhaps a little bit different than some other types of charges, for example embezzlement, because they are almost always begun with a warrantless arrest by a police officer of an individual who has just committed the offense or has done so very recently.  In order to make a warrantless arrest an officer has to have probable cause that a person has committed the offense.  The United States Supreme Court has defined probable cause as, ”the facts and circumstances within the officers knowledge, and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to warrant a belief by a man of reasonable caution that a crime has been committed.”  That is the legal standard and it’s cited many times, but in reality what’s at issue are the facts of the individual case.

To have probable cause is a practical question in a DUI case.  The officer must use their training and knowledge to say that that’s an indication that the person is impaired or above the legal limit or perhaps under the influence of some drugs. What an officer can use for that comes from their training and experience.  It would start quite often from the driving, meaning that the officer has observed the driving and in their opinion the driver is committing traffic offenses, for example making a wide turn, or if it is at nighttime they are driving and doing what is called nighttime driving cues, National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) cues, such driving 10 miles an hour below the speed limit, or even that there is an accident. These are all factors that an officer could use to determine if there is probable cause.

The second step in the DUI process for determining probable cause in a DUI, and again remembering that the witnesses that are providing the information to show probable cause exists are police officers who have been trained in the Academy and been trained during their work at to look for the signs, will be things like physical observations of the person stopped, such as bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcohol in speech, manual dexterity problems and inability to produce the license and registration when asked to do so.

The third factor to consider when determining if probable cause exists would be field sobriety tests.  Once the officer has had a person exit the vehicle, the officers administer field sobriety tests.  The police place great emphasis on the field sobriety test known as the HGN test, which is Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus in the person’s eyes.  If the officer is trained to do this test they can come to an opinion as to whether or not the person’s alcohol level is above or below the legal limit of .08%, or that they appear to be under the influence of a central nervous system depressant, such as alcohol or some other drug.  Other field sobriety tests that the officers can rely on are the Walk and Turn test and the One Leg Stand test.  If the officers observe two or more cues of what they consider to be a failure in the person’s performance on these tests, then that also can be used to justify probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Evidence of probable cause can also include such things as admissions by the person, for example if the person says that they’ve been drinking or taking drugs which cause impairment, that also can go into the equation to say whether or not probable cause exists.  Other observations could be, if it’s not driving under the influence of alcohol but rather under the influence of drugs, constricted eyes which could be an indication of impairment by a narcotic analgesic.

A person is legally not required to perform field sobriety tests.  Having said that, the officer can use the person’s refusal to do the tests as a basis of deciding whether probable cause exits.

Whether legally all this adds up to probable cause depends on the facts in the particular case.  It is always up to a judge to determine whether probable cause exists.  Quite often a defense attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence alleging that there was no probable cause existent.  In response to that motion the police and prosecutor have to justify what factors they used to determine probable cause existed at the time of the arrest.  These motions are very easy to do and if a judge agrees, after listening to what the officer claimed occurred,  no probable cause existed at the time of the arrest, then the evidence coming from the arrest is suppressed, meaning the State cannot use it at trial, which as a practical matter means the case is dismissed.

Now that is what happens with virtually all DUI cases, namely they begin with a warrantless arrest of the person.  Occasionally the case does not proceed once the person is arrested but rather the prosecutor dismisses to obtain more evidence.  Sometimes for example the police obtain a blood sample shortly after the arrest which they want tested for the presence of drugs and that takes time to be tested, and so the case, although it began with a warrantless arrest, is then dismissed so that the police have time to test the sample.  If the sample comes back with drugs present then the person gets charged at that point with DUI.  With a possible felony sometimes the police or prosecutor have to get court or MVD records that would indicate that the person was driving with two or more prior convictions within the past seven years or had a license suspension at the time of the arrest.  These cases are often dismissed and then if the police or prosecutor comes up with the records then the person gets charged with DUI at a later date.

So that’s the answer to today’s question, namely, what legal grounds are required to have somebody charged with DUI.

If you have any questions please give me a call anytime.

If you’ve been charged with DUI or another criminal offense, getting help from an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer is one of the best things you can do for your case. Gordon Thompson has been practicing criminal and DUI law since 1979, and has used his vast experience to help countless people charged with DUI and other criminal offenses get the best result. Call Gordon Thompson now, 24/7, so he can put his many years of experience to use and help you get the best result for your DUI or criminal case.  #DUI  #Criminal

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