Arizona law and the use of saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints

Enforcement officers employ various tactics to charge drivers with a DUI. Saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints are two examples used in Arizona.

Getting accused of driving while intoxicated is a serious allegation. Drivers in Arizona could face these allegations in a number of different circumstances. Two specific examples used by enforcement officers include saturation patrols and driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints.

What are saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints?

Saturation patrols are fairly common in the state. These patrols involve an increase in the number of enforcement officers patrolling a given area looking specifically for signs of intoxicated driving. These signs generally include visual cues like drifting from lane to lane and inappropriate speed or brake use. The enforcement officer will attempt to gather examples of these cues to support that he or she had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify the stop. Without reasonable suspicion, the stop may be deemed illegal. If deemed illegal, any evidence gathered during the stop is generally not allowed to support charges.

In contrast, a DUI checkpoint, also referred to as a sobriety checkpoint, involve enforcement officers randomly stopping vehicles to check for signs of intoxication. Some states have questioned the constitutionality of these stops. Arizona questioned the stops and found them constitutional. The state's highest court held in State v. Super. Ct. in & for County of Pima that considering the "gravity of [drunk driving], a compelling need for the state to take strong action against drunk drivers, and the minimal intrusion created by these stops, we hold the stops" pass "constitutional muster."

I was stopped and asked to take a breath test. Now what?

Those who are stopped either through the use of a saturated patrol or checkpoint are generally required to cooperate due to implied consent laws. This area of the law involves certain types of consent that are given whenever a driver receives a driver's license from the state. In Arizona, like most states, a driver consents to testing of blood or breath to determine if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving. However, the enforcement officer gathering evidence to support criminal charges must follow certain protocol to protect the driver's legal rights. Some examples include:

  • Reasonable grounds. Unless the stop is part of a checkpoint, the officer cannot simply stop any driver, anywhere. Even when partaking in a checkpoint, the officer generally cannot randomly demand a driver submit to these tests. There must be reasonable grounds to support a request for these tests.
  • Administration of tests. There are various regulations in place that guide how these tests must be administered. A failure to follow the outlined methods can result in faulty results. This would likely result in the evidence getting thrown out.
  • Refusal of test. If the driver refuses to take the test, the test must not be given. However, there are certain exceptions. One involves the officer applying for a search warrant to require the driver submit to testing. It is also important to note that refusal of the test can result in penalties such as a surrender of the driver's license.

These are just three of the areas to take into consideration when dealing with one single aspect of the stop. As such, those who are charged with a crime are wise to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can review these issues along with all other applicable considerations to tailor a defense to meet your needs. This will better ensure your legal rights are protected while you navigate the charges.

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