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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case requiring the court to determine if the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient to convict the defendant. Specifically, the defendant challenged the finding that she was operating the vehicle. Ultimately, the court upheld the defendant’s conviction, finding that the fact that the defendant was unconscious behind the wheel was sufficient to prove she was operating the vehicle.

Sleeping Behind WheelThe Facts

The defendant was found unconscious behind the wheel of her vehicle by a firefighter who was conducting a wellness check. The defendant’s car was parked across several parking spaces. The firefighter knocked on the window until the defendant awoke, at which point he reached in and turned off the vehicle.

As the fireman was talking with the defendant, a police officer arrived. The police officer asked the defendant for her identification, and she handed him her debit card. The defendant eventually provided the officer with her identification. The officer claimed he noticed signs of intoxication, and asked the defendant to perform several field sobriety tests. In the officer’s assessment, the defendant failed the tests and she was arrested for DUI.

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Anyone who has ever been arrested for an Arizona DUI knows that the criminal justice system treats driving under the influence very seriously. Over the years, legislatures across the country have continued to enact stricter penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence, even for first-time offenders.

Police CarWhen someone is arrested for an Arizona DUI, it is often the first time they have faced criminal charges. This can be a very stressful and traumatic experience because defendants rarely know what punishment they could face if they are found guilty, and they often have no idea about how to go about contesting the charges.

While some Arizona DUI cases are best settled before trial, there are a number of cases in which the prosecution cannot meet their burden to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In other cases, police officers overstep their authority by stopping motorists, searching their cars, or asking them to take blood- or breath-tests. The fact is, Arizona DUI charges can be fought, and won, in many cases.

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The 4th of July is known as a holiday when people kick back and relax with friends and family. Over this holiday, it is inevitable that some people will have too much to drink. Knowing this fact, each year Arizona police set out to make a statement against driving under the influence by focusing their efforts on strictly enforcing the state’s DUI laws over the holiday break.

Police SirensAccording to a recent news report, 1,726 law enforcement officers participated in a state-wide enforcement effort over the holiday. In total, police made over 11,000 traffic stops over July 3rd and 4th, and arrested nearly 300 people on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Of those, 62 of the arrests were for “extreme DUI” in which the driver’s blood-alcohol content is alleged to be greater than .15.

Police Were Looking for Reasons to Stop Drivers

Given that the state’s law enforcement officers were on high alert for drivers under the influence, it is likely that many of the traffic stops police made were motivated by “gut instincts” rather than articulable facts supporting a finding that the driver was under the influence. However, under Arizona law, police officers cannot pull over motorist for no reason or act on a hunch when determining which motorists to stop. Doing so violates the motorist’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

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Police officer at driver windowDrivers facing DUI charges may want to seek the help of an experienced DUI defense attorney to represent them in their case. The potential damage to your driving record, your criminal record, and your insurance rates is significant. 

If your DUI case involves no insurance you might also find it difficult to obtain insurance after the DUI charges are filed. Fortunately, criminal defense attorney James Novak in Phoenix, AZ can help minimize the consequences of being arrested for DUI. 

Possible Punishments for Driving without Insurance in Arizona

In Arizona, lawmakers take driving under the influence very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the law as it is written allows for a defendant to be found guilty of driving under the influence in some situations when the car is parked in a legal parking spot. It can even be illegal for an intoxicated person to sit in a car that had been turned off.

Placed in CuffsThe reason that these situations are covered under Arizona’s DUI statute is because the statute makes it illegal for “a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle” while intoxicated. Of course, not every case where an intoxicated motorist is found inside a vehicle will result in a DUI charge. For example, if someone was sleeping in the back seat of the vehicle while parked with the keys out of the ignition and a cold engine, there would be a good argument that they were not, and did not intend to be, in “actual physical control” of the vehicle.

Cases in which a defendant is arrested and charged with DUI while parked or while the car was off depend heavily on every small fact. An experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney can help anyone charged with an Arizona DUI charge understand what they are facing and how they may be able to defend against the charges.

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It’s no surprise that driving while under the intoxicating effects of drugs is illegal. A question often comes up, however: for how long after using a drug will a motorist be considered to be “under the influence”?

DUI Blood TestOnce someone ingests a drug like cocaine or marijuana, the intoxicating effects wear off after a short time. However, that drug then is broken down by the body in a series of chemical processes. The active ingredient in a drug remains in a person’s system for a certain amount of time, depending on the drug.

When the body breaks down the active ingredient in a drug, there are byproducts called metabolites that are left behind. These metabolites, which register on a blood test, can remain in someone’s system for days or even weeks, depending on the drug and the frequency of use. The common consensus among experts is that most inactive metabolites do not cause intoxication; however, courts are only recently beginning to realize this. A recent case illustrates how one defendant’s conviction was reversed based on inaccurate and misleading jury instructions describing the effects of an inactive metabolite of cocaine.

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Smoking marijuana while driving

In the state of Arizona, it is illegal to use or possess marijuana, sell or distribute marijuana, produce marijuana, and transport marijuana. It’s also illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. The state has stiff penalties against people who violate marijuana DUI laws, which is why having a Phoenix, AZ defense attorney is crucial.

We’d like to consider some of the financial penalties associated with marijuana DUI charges so you understand the difficulties ahead. It will reinforce the importance of having a skilled lawyer by your side to help reduce or drop the charges against you.

Arizona Laws on Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

In Phoenix, AZ, attorney James Novak helps clients maintain driving privileges and minimize the damage done by a DUI (driving under the influence) arrest. A DUI defense attorney helps by doing more than just defending the criminal charges. There are also a host of administrative issues that need to be handled when a DU arrest is made. An often overlooked topic is what to do when relocating to a new state after DUI. In the moments immediately after a DUI arrest, moving out of state may be the last thing on your mind, but life has a way of changing and relocating can become a necessity for family or for a new job. If you have had a prior DUI and need to move to a new state, knowing what to expect when switching over your driver’s license or changing insurance providers is helpful.

officer putting handcuffed man in patrol car

Looking at the Status of Your DUI Case

Moving to a new state with a DUI brings up questions about how to complete your case or what to do about getting a driver’s license once you are settled. The answers to these questions can depend on the stage of your DUI case, and what steps are still left to be completed.

A driver taking a breathalyzer test
After a DUI conviction, you’re bound to face a number of challenges. Yes, there are fines, jail or prison time, probation, and other penalties levied against you. Yet there are many other consequences and restrictions you may not be aware of. That’s why having a skilled Phoenix, AZ DUI defense attorney is crucial.

With this in mind, we want to consider some of the challenges a person may face when crossing the border to Canada if he or she has a drunk driving conviction on their record. It’s not as simple as having a valid passport. As you’re about to read, these issues can be much more complicated than you expect.

Can You Be Denied Entry to Canada Due to Drunk Driving?

In Phoenix, AZ, attorney James Novak provides aggressive defense for DUI cases. A DUI can be defended on many fronts, many of which involve challenging the breath test results. A DUI breath test is designed to determine the level of alcohol in a driver’s system. When an alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is found, the legal standard for DUI has been met. This threshold is relatively low, making it easier for law enforcement to write more DUI tickets and requiring defendants to fight the charges in order to protect their driving privileges. It is not unheard of for the breath test to give off a false positive, and a false positive with unnatural breathing is one of the most common causes for this type of inaccurate result.

man blowing into breath test

How Your Breathing Can Affect A Breath Test

A breath test machine is designed to measure the amount of alcohol in a persons’ system by measuring the amount of alcohol in the breath. When the machine is blown into, it will give off a reading that translates to a BAC (blood alcohol content) level, if that level is higher than what is allowed by law, the driver can be arrested and charged with DUI. Because the test requires a person to blow into the device, how that person is breathing plays a role in the result. Taking a deep breath allows the alcohol stored at the bottom of your lungs to make its way to the top, and thus be the first thing measured by the testing device. The end result is a higher BAC level, otherwise known as a false positive. A more natural breathing pattern will yield a more accurate result and drivers should not allow an officer to require a large inhale before taking a breath test.

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