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Recently, a state appellate court issued a hard-to-swallow opinion in an Arizona drug possession case. The case illustrates police officers’ power when conducting a traffic stop, especially while investigating DUI charges.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, two women were leaving a casino by car. A police officer noticed that the vehicle had only one working headlight and pulled the driver over. The defendant, who was the front-seat passenger, sat and waited as the officer conducted the investigation.

Initially, the officer asked if he could search the car. The driver declined, explaining that it was her son’s car. However, the driver allowed the officer to search her purse, where he found nothing. Then, the officer informed the driver that he suspected she was under the influence. He removed the driver, performed field sobriety tests, and determined that she was not impaired.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona DUI case involving a defendant who was alleged to have caused a serious accident while under the influence of methamphetamine. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court failed to exclude a statement used against him at trial. However, the court refrained from weighing in on whether the statement was admissible, finding instead that, even if it was improperly admitted, and error it caused was harmless. The case illustrates the importance of raising and preserving all valid arguments at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant entered an intersection without stopping at a stop sign and while traveling over the posted speed limit. As the defendant’s vehicle entered the intersection, it struck an SUV that had the right-of-way. There were three passengers in the defendant’s vehicle. One died, and two others were seriously injured. The driver and two passengers in the SUV were also injured.

The defendant, who was also injured in the accident, was taken to the hospital. While at the hospital, a detective hand-cuffed the defendant to the hospital bed and unsuccessfully attempted to interview him. Later, as the detective was out of view but within earshot, he heard the defendant tell a nurse that he had taken methamphetamine earlier in the day.

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One of the most important issues in many Arizona DUI cases is the credibility of the witnesses who take the stand. While some cases involve only police officer witnesses, other times the defendant decides to testify in their own defense or presents a defense witness. When the testimony of two witnesses differs, the finder of fact (either the judge or the jury) must determine which witnesses’ testimony is more credible.

A recent opinion issued by the Arizona Court of Appeals is an example of a DUI case that came down to the credibility of the witnesses. In that case, the police received a call from a person explaining that a car had crashed into a home. The caller told police that they did not see the actual collision, but could hear it. They also relayed that there was an African American man on the scene wearing a white shirt, jeans, and a hoodie. There was no mention of anyone else in the car or at the scene.

Police officers arrived on the scene two minutes after the 911 call. Upon their arrival, officers saw the defendant, matching the description of the driver. Officers stopped the defendant, who dropped a set of car keys. The lock/unlock buttons on the car keys worked on the vehicle that was involved in the collision.

In January, several Arizona dispensaries began selling marijuana to legal adults who do not have a medical marijuana card. The move came after voters approved Arizona marijuana sales. Motorists must understand that despite the legalization of recreational marijuana, they may still be arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI. Notwithstanding the presumed increase of Arizonans consuming marijuana, the State reports a decrease in the overall number of drug-related DUI arrests. However, the director of Arizona’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety stated that the numbers might be slightly misleading because the data is incomplete.

In Arizona, the State can charge and prosecute individuals for DUI drugs under two main statutes, ARS §28-1381(A)(1) and ARS §28-1381(A)(3). Under the first statute, it is illegal for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any alcohol, drug or inhalant. A charge under this statute may occur when the motorist is impaired to the “slightest degree.” The second statute provides that it is illegal for one to drive a motorized vehicle under the influence of any drug or its metabolite. This statute encompasses substances such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and prescription medications being used illegally. Under the statute, a person does not need to exhibit actual impairment; instead, they may be guilty by solely having the drug or its metabolite in their system.

Although marijuana and its THC component are legal to use recreationally, issues may arise if the person exhibits even slight impairment. Arizonans may not need to present a medical marijuana card to defend themselves against certain DUI charges, but they may still face impairment charges. Many charges stemming from marijuana DUIs may hinge on whether someone is too impaired or high to drive. Issues often arise because, unlike alcohol, marijuana requires a blood test. However, where alcohol tends to metabolize quickly and goes away within a matter of hours, marijuana and its accompanying THC may remain in one’s system for days after the effects have dissipated.

When thinking about the possible consequences of an Arizona DUI conviction, the most commonly feared repercussions involve infringements on your freedom, such as jail time, probation, or the suspension of your driver’s licenses. However, Arizona DUI offenses carry a host of other collateral consequences that can also have a significant impact on your life. One common question facing those who are arrested for DUI offenses involves the impact a conviction could have on their ability to obtain or maintain custody of their children. While a conviction alone is not likely to result in someone losing custody of their children, it can play into the court’s decision.

For example, take a recent appellate decision issued by the Arizona Court of Appeals. In that case, a child was born three weeks prematurely. It was later determined that the baby’s mother tested positive for multiple drugs. However, the child’s father sough to maintain custody. At the hospital, the father was emotional and, evidently, security had to escort him out of the building. A week later, the father was arrested for reckless driving and, after a blood test revealed his blood-alcohol content was twice the legal limit, he was arrested for driving under the influence.

In this case, the court had to determine if the lower court’s determination that the child was a “dependent child,” meaning one “who has no parent or guardian willing to exercise or capable of exercising” the care and control a child needs. Among the factors the court considered was the fact that the father had been arrested for driving under the influence. While there were certainly other issues the child’s father had that caused the court concern, there is a reason the court included the father’s DUI arrest in its opinion.

Arizona law recognizes driving under the influence (DUI) as a violent crime, and violations of the law may result in hefty penalties and incarceration. For example, recently, a court issued an opinion stemming from an Arizona defendant’s appeal of his DUI conviction. The case arose after police responded to a welfare check of the defendant sitting in a vehicle outside of a restaurant. According to police, a database search revealed that the man had a suspended license and was required to have an ignition interlock device in his vehicle. Police testified that the defendant appeared intoxicated, refused a field sobriety test, and did not have an interlock device in his vehicle. The defendant told police that a friend drove him between bars, but he could not provide the friend’s contact information. A subsequent blood test determined that the defendant’s blood-alcohol level was over the legal limit.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with several DUI offenses, and in the alternative, the State alleged actual physical control of a vehicle under the influence. The jury convicted the defendant of all counts. Amongst several issues, the defendant argued that he should not have been convicted of actual physical control because the indictment did not include those charges.

Under Arizona law, Statute 28-1381(A)(1), it is illegal to drive or have actual physical control while under the influence or impaired. Specifically, a person may not maintain control or drive a vehicle if they are under the influence of liquor, any drug, any vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or any combination of these substances. Courts will determine whether a party had “physical control” by examining a host of factors. Some relevant factors include:

Everyone knows that drunk driving is against the law. However, the elements of a DUI offense are not always straightforward. One of the most misunderstood elements of an Arizona drunk driving offense is the requirement that the prosecution proves a defendant was in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. A recent state appellate decision discusses what the prosecution must prove to meet its burden under the “actual physical control” element of a DUI offense.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received a call for people sleeping in a car. Police officers arrived on the scene, and noticed that the vehicle had been in an accident. Officers woke the passenger up without issue, but the defendant was “in and out of it,” and exhibited signs of intoxication, including slurred speech and confusion.

Police officers administered field sobriety tests, the results of which led them to believe the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Subsequently, the police arrested the defendant, who then told them that he had driven to the store to buy some food, and fell asleep after pulling over. Police ordered chemical testing of the defendant’s blood, which indicated he was under the influence of methamphetamine and amphetamine.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case, affirming the defendant’s conviction. The case illustrates the challenges of successfully litigating an appeal, as well as the importance of vigorously defending against all allegations at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a group of police officers was eating in a restaurant, when someone approached the officers, informing them that a motorist was committing traffic violations. One of the officers left the restaurant, got into his car, and witnessed the defendant run a red light.

The officer turned on his lights and sirens to conduct a traffic stop; however, the defendant did not stop. The defendant led the officer on a chase. According to the officer, the defendant committed “too many traffic violations to count.” When the defendant turned the wrong way down a one-way road, another officer put spike strips down in an attempt to disable the defendant’s vehicle. However, when the defendant saw the officer in the road, he swerved towards the officer. The officer jumped out of the way to avoid being hit.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case involving the defendant’s claim that the prosecution failed to preserve evidence that would have shown police violated his rights. However, ultimately, the court concluded that the video, at best, could provide “potentially useful” evidence, but could not show that he was not guilty of the charged offense. Thus, the court rejected the defendant’s claim and affirmed his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer heard tires squealing and observed a car take off at a high rate of speed. The officer pulled over the car, which the defendant was driving. The officer noticed that the defendant smelled like alcohol, and arrested him, and took him to a booking facility.

Police asked the defendant to perform two sobriety tests, which he did. They then informed the defendant of his Miranda rights, at which point the defendant invoked his right to consult with an attorney. The officers explained the consequences of refusing a breath or blood test, and the defendant again insisted on having counsel present. Police officers then obtained a warrant to take the defendant’s blood, which revealed he had a blood-alcohol concentrate of .121, well over the legal limit.

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The role of an Arizona DUI defense attorney is to defend his or her client at every step of the case. Initially, this means conducting a thorough investigation into the case, diligently reviewing the state’s evidence, and creating a compelling defense. Once the trial starts, however, a defense attorney’s role expands, requiring they keep an eye on the prosecution.

The role of a prosecutor is to “seek justice.” However, as history shows, sometimes prosecutors step out of line, either by withholding valuable evidence, trying to use prejudicial evidence, or making inflammatory comments to the jury. Defense attorneys are critical in keeping prosecutors in check, by objecting to their unfair tactics.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drunk driving case, discussing the defendants’ claims that the prosecutor engaged in prejudicial misconduct. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant entered a roundabout without yielding the right of way to a police cruiser. The officer initiated a traffic stop, and the defendant sped away. The chase reached speeds of 120 miles per hour before the defendant stopped the car and got out. The officer commanded the defendant to get on the ground, and he complied, at which point he was arrested.

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