DUI Checkpoints in Arizona


In the state of Arizona, when law enforcement officers stop vehicles at a predetermined fixed location in an effort to find drivers who are impaired with alcohol or drugs, this is called a DUI checkpoint. More than 7,000 people are arrested in the state for driving under the influence each year, according to the Arizona DUI Enforcement Unit, and many of those arrests come at DUI checkpoints.


The thought is that these checkpoints will make people believe that there is a higher risk of DUI arrest in Arizona and keep them from driving under the influence. DUI checkpoints are set up when it is believed that a higher number of people will be driving under the influence, typically late at night or early in the morning.


Are DUI Checkpoints Constitutional?


The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of DUI roadblocks with a 5 to 4 vote in the 1990 Michigan v. Sitz case. They felt that the intrusion of a DUI checkpoint was justified by the public interest in reducing DUI, and so was not an illegal search and seizure because their sole purpose was to detect DUI.


But officers at Arizona DUI checkpoints often make many citations for other issues, like out-of-date registrations, tinted windows, expired driver’s licenses, and defective tail lights, all of which bring in fees to the local government. Moreover, Arizona DUI checkpoints have shown to be less effective than roaming patrols at arresting people for DUI.


Since the fourth amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, a number of legal experts continue to believe that the Supreme Court’s Michigan v. Sitz decision was incorrect, calling this ruling “the DUI exception to the Constitution.” Justice William Rehnquist practically admitted this, but called it a little violation. 11 states have outlawed DUI checkpoints because they believe they violate their state constitutions, but unfortunately Arizona is not one of these states, so an Arizona DUI checkpoint is legal.


What to Do If You Are Stopped


If an officer stops you at an Arizona DUI checkpoint, you are required to show him or her your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Not doing this could make the officer think you are hiding something and give rise to probable cause. However, if the officer begins to question you, exercise your rights and refuse to answer anything other than confirming your identity; answering some questions and refusing others could raise suspicions, and you could even unintentionally incriminate yourself. Just be sure to remain calm and polite when you refuse to answer so you pass the so-called “attitude test.”


The officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test. Since these tests consist of a series of basic questions and balance tests and the officer’s judgment determines whether you pass or fail, they are considered subjective and you can refuse to take them. Simply decline politely and say that you would like to speak to your Arizona DUI attorney. There is a good chance that you will be arrested at this point, but by not taking the field sobriety test, you’re limiting any evidence they have against you.


You should also refuse to consent if the police officer requests a search of your car, but if they ask you to get out and start to search it anyway, be cooperative and polite.


If You Are Arrested at a Arizona DUI Checkpoint


As soon as you reach the police station, say that you want to speak to your Arizona DUI attorney. If you already asked earlier, repeat your request and don’t answer any further questions. Do not, however, refuse to take a BAC test if one is offered. If you do, state law says that your license will be suspended or revoked!


Even if you fail the test, you have options. The results may have been incorrect for any number of reasons, such as improper usage of the test, incorrect machine calibration, and differences in your body physiology. There are many ways to contest the results and to fight for your rights in court. Consult an experienced Arizona DUI attorney as soon as possible to find out what your options are and start building a strong defense.

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