What rights do Arizona drivers have at sobriety checkpoints?

When stopped at DUI checkpoints in Arizona, it is important that drivers understand their rights to guard themselves against drunk driving charges.

In 2014 alone, there were more than 23,000 driving under the influence arrests across Arizona, according to the state's Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Sometimes, DUI arrests come after motorists are stopped at sobriety checkpoints. In order to help protect themselves against drunk driving charges, it is important for drivers to understand their rights at such stops.

Answering questions

The first thing that law enforcement officers generally do at DUI checkpoints is approach the stopped vehicles and ask the drivers questions. Based on people's answers and behavior, the authorities may choose to investigate further. Often, motorists respond to law enforcement's questions because they feel obligated to do so. However, drivers do not have to talk to the authorities at sobriety checkpoints. Rather, people may choose to present them with a card stating they intend to exercise their Constitutional rights, which includes not speaking with law enforcement until they have consulted with an attorney.

Performing field sobriety tests

If law enforcement officers suspect that drivers are under the influence at DUI checkpoints, they may ask them to step out of their vehicles to perform field sobriety tests. The authorities may use people's performance on roadside tests as grounds to arrest them or to continue their investigations. When asking them to perform these tests, law enforcement officers may fail to inform motorists of their rights. However, motorists should keep in mind that they do not have to comply with these requests.

When drivers have not been drinking, submitting to field sobriety tests may help them prove they should be allowed to continue on their way. Additionally, refusing to perform these tests does not guarantee that people will not be arrested for drunk driving. Rather, it may only serve to make the authorities' case more difficult to prove.

Submitting to chemical tests

At DUI checkpoints, law enforcement officers commonly ask drivers they suspect have been drinking to submit to chemical tests, such as a breath or blood tests. The results of these tests provide their blood alcohol content levels, and serve as evidence regarding their level of intoxication.

Once they have been placed under arrest, drivers are viewed to have already consented to these tests under the state's implied consent law. Thus, they cannot refuse a breath test without facing additional consequences. The Arizona Department of Transportation points out that this includes an automatic suspension of their driver's license for a minimum of 12 months for a first time refusal. The loss of their driving privileges for a refusal is generally in addition to any penalties they might face if they are convicted of drunk driving.

Obtaining legal representation

Drunk driving is considered a serious offense in Arizona, and thus, it is punished severely. Consequently, DUI allegations may have a significant impact on people's lives and futures. Therefore, those who have been charged with driving under the influence may benefit from obtaining legal counsel. A lawyer may explain the laws as they apply to their situations, help them to understand their rights and aid them in establishing a strong criminal defense.

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