Are Arizona DUI Checkpoints Legal?

Police officers have an interest in removing intoxicated drivers from the road. However, in trying to locate and arrest potentially drunk drivers, police officers must respect the rights of all motorists. Thus, police officers can only stop a vehicle under certain circumstances. For the most part, an officer must observe some indicia of dangerous driving or intoxication to stop a vehicle for suspicion of DUI.

A DUI checkpoint would seem to be contrary to this general rule. However, Arizona DUI checkpoints have been held to be legal if they are properly conducted. For example, courts have held that a checkpoint must be “carried out pursuant to a plan embodying explicit, neutral limitations on the conduct of individual officers.” One reason for this is that police could easily use a checkpoint as a pretext for racially motivated traffic stops. Thus, by removing the discretion from individual officers, courts believe that it is less likely an officer’s personal biases will affect whether a motorist is stopped.

What Are a Motorists’ Rights in a DUI Checkpoint?

When a motorist is stopped at a DUI checkpoint, an officer will approach the vehicle and begin to ask the driver questions. Generally, a motorist will be asked to provide the police officer with his driver’s license. It is important to remember that motorists do not need to engage in conversation with police officers, other than to provide necessary information. A motorist’s decision not to speak with an officer cannot be used as evidence of intoxication; however, by refusing to talk with an officer, the officer may become suspicious and decide to investigate further.

If a police officer suspects that a motorist is intoxicated, they may ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test. These tests are notoriously subjective, and the validity of field sobriety tests has been called into question. In addition, the purpose of these tests is to confirm an officer’s suspicion that a motorist is intoxicated and justify a subsequent arrest. Thus, even “passing” a field sobriety test may not result in a driver being sent on his way. That being the case, some motorists may decide to decline an officer’s invitation to perform the tests. While police cannot physically force a motorist to perform these tests, a driver who refuses to perform a field sobriety test may still be arrested. It should be noted, however, that all Arizona motorists implicitly consent to chemical testing when they obtain an Arizona driver’s license.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI case, you should immediately contact Attorney James E. Novak for assistance. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Arizona DUI defense attorney with extensive experience helping his clients fight the charges they are facing. Whether it involves challenging an alcohol checkpoint, arguing a motion to suppress, or litigating a case at trial, Attorney Novak is prepared to defend you at every stage of the proceeding. To learn more, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

Additional Resources:

Other Articles of Interest from The Law Office of James Novak’s Phoenix DUI Blog:

How Can Someone Fight an Arizona DUI Charge?, Phoenix DUI Law Blog, January 24, 2019

Arizona’s Underage DUI Laws, Phoenix DUI Law Blog, January 10, 2019

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