Articles Posted in DUI Case Law

Seeing the red and blue lights of a police cruiser in the rear-view mirror is among the worst fears for many motorists, especially those who have had a few drinks. Part of what makes getting pulled over for an Arizona DUI so nerve-wracking is the knowledge gap between police officers who do this every day, and motorists who may have never been pulled over before. Learning about motorists’ rights, and the procedure that police must follow when executing an Arizona DUI stop, may put some of these anxieties to rest.

One of the most common questions is whether a police officer can require a motorist to give their blood for a blood test. The short answer is no, however, the question is really more complicated. By obtaining an Arizona driver’s license, motorists agree to consent to blood testing at the request of police. This is referred to as implied consent. However, police officers cannot physically require a person to submit to a blood test.

Thus, under Arizona DUI law, all motorists agree to undergo testing at the request of police. However, if a motorist refuses testing, the police cannot physically force them to give blood. The only way that police can physically force a suspect to give blood is if they obtain a warrant. However, in practice, warrants are rarely obtained in DUI cases.

The admissibility of blood-test evidence is currently a hot topic in DUI law, with the United States Supreme Court deciding three cases on the subject in the past few years. Often, the issue that comes up in these cases is whether the police officers were able to legally obtain a blood sample based on the surrounding circumstances. Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion illustrating police officers’ ability to obtain a blood sample that a nurse took from the defendant for medical purposes.

According to the court’s opinion, a state trooper stopped the defendant for following too closely and failing to stay within his lane. While the trooper was interacting with the defendant, he noticed a smell of alcohol on the defendant’s breath, and that the defendant’s eyes were bloodshot. When asked, the defendant admitted to having two drinks, and also that his license was in suspension.

The trooper asked the defendant to get out of the car and performed a series of field sobriety tests. Ultimately, the trooper concluded that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol and arrested him for DUI. Another trooper arrived on the scene, and the two discussed bringing the defendant into the station for a breath test. During this conversation, the defendant called for medical assistance because he was having a heart attack and a seizure.

In April 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case that may call into question the constitutionality of a significant part of Arizona’s implied consent statute. The specific question posed by the case is whether a law that allows a blood test from an unconscious driver provides an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.

Arizona’s implied consent statute provides that “a person who operates a motor vehicle in this state gives consent … to a test or tests of the person’s blood, breath, urine or other bodily substance.” The statute also states that “a person who is dead, unconscious or otherwise in a condition rendering the person incapable of refusal is deemed not to have withdrawn the consent … and the test or tests may be administered.”

The area of implied consent has always been controversial, but especially since 2013, when the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case Missouri v. McNeely. In that case, the court held that the dissipation of alcohol in a DUI suspect’s blood is not an “exigent circumstance” that allows for a warrantless blood draw. Since then, the Court decided another landmark case, Birchfield v. North Dakota, in which the court held that warrantless breath tests are constitutionally permissible, but that blood draws require a warrant.

Expert testimony is often necessary in Arizona DUI cases. Therefore, understanding the use and limits of expert testimony is essential. In a recent Arizona DUI case, an appellate court considered whether the trial court exceeded its authority in limiting expert testimony.

According to the court’s decision, the defendant was driving in Tucson, when his car crossed into the median, which was lined with palm trees. The defendant’s car crashed into a tree, and three passengers died, one of whom was pregnant. The defendant was also taken to the hospital, and a blood test showed that he had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .180. The defendant was charged with multiple counts of DUI, manslaughter, and negligent homicide.

At trial, the defendant argued that the roadway was defective, and that the roadway’s design caused the crash. The jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to a total of 16.5 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant argued that he did not receive a fair trial, in part because the court excluded testimony from his expert witnesses. He argued that most of his expert’s testimony was improperly precluded.

In a recent case, an Arizona court of appeals held that an Arizona DUI sentence should stand because the court’s correction of the unlawful sentence was made too late. According to the court’s opinion, in 2016, the defendant was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence and aggravated driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or higher. The case was reset for sentencing, but before the defendant was sentenced, he moved to designate a prior conviction as a misdemeanor, which the state granted. The state then moved for reconsideration, and the court denied reconsideration. On September 15, 2017, the court sentenced the defendant. It imposed a sentence of one year in prison.

The state then moved to correct the defendant’s sentence under Rule 24.3 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure (“Rule 24.3). It argued that the defendant’s prior conviction was a felony at the time he committed the DUI, and therefore, the court should have sentenced him more harshly. In On December 1, 2017, the court granted the state’s motion, finding that the original sentence was inappropriate under an applicable statute, and re-sentenced the defendant to a presumptive term of imprisonment of 2.5 years. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court could not re-sentence him under Rule 24.3.

Under the current version of Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 24.3, a court can correct an unlawful sentence or a sentence imposed in an unlawful manner within 60 days of the entry of judgment of the sentence, or within 15 days of the appellate clerk distributing a notice under Rule 31.9(e) that a record on appeal has been filed. At the time of the defendant’s sentence, the rule stated simply that a court could “correct any unlawful sentence or one imposed in an unlawful manner within 60 days of the entry of judgment and sentence but before the defendant’s appeal, if any, is perfected.”

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case discussing the elements of an aggravated DUI under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 28-1383(A)(3). Ultimately, the court determined that the prosecution established evidence of each element, and affirmed the jury’s guilty verdict.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving a 14-year-old girl home from a party when he was involved in a car accident. Evidently, the defendant did not know the girl very well, and was unaware of her age. When police arrived on the scene, they found a bottle of pills inside the vehicle, and the defendant admitted that he had smoked marijuana earlier that day.

The defendant was arrested and charged under A.R.S. section 28-1383(A)(3), which makes it an aggravated DUI to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol while carrying a passenger less than 15 years of age. The defendant requested the trial court instruct the jury that he could not be found guilty unless the prosecution proved the defendant knew the girl was under 15 years of age. The court rejected the defendant’s request and the jury convicted the defendant of aggravated DUI. The defendant appealed.

Under Arizona law, there is a general rule that a person who is charged with a crime can prevent their spouse from testifying against them. This is even the case if the other spouse wants to testify against the spouse who is charged with a crime. The rule, called the anti-marital fact privilege, or spousal privilege, has its roots in the common law and has been a part of Arizona law since the beginning of the state’s formation.

Arizona’s spousal privilege has a number of exceptions that can prevent its application. The most common exception is called the “crimes exception” and involves a situation in which one spouse is charged with a crime that was committed against the other spouse. A recent Arizona DUI case illustrates the crimes exception to Arizona’s spousal privilege statute.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant’s husband (Husband) called police because the defendant was trying to leave their home while she was intoxicated. Husband attempted to park one of the couple’s other vehicles behind the defendant’s minivan to prevent her from leaving, but the defendant got into the minivan and backed into the other vehicle. The defendant was later arrested and charged with DUI and causing criminal damage.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case involving allegations that the defendant possessed methamphetamine with the intent to deliver. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the results of a blood test that was administered to the defendant on the day of her arrest were admissible. The court concluded that they were.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over after a police officer noticed that the car the defendant was driving did not have a temporary registration tag displayed. During the traffic stop, the officer noticed that the defendant exhibited signs of intoxication. The defendant was placed under arrest for driving under the influence.

After the defendant’s arrest, the officer conducted an inventory search of the car, which was registered to the defendant’s sister. During the search, the officer located an eyeglasses case inside a coat pocket. Inside the eyeglasses cases was a pipe and some methamphetamine. The defendant was taken into the police station, and her blood was taken. The results came back showing that the defendant had methamphetamine in her blood. The defendant was then charged with transportation of a dangerous drug for sale, possession of a dangerous drug for sale, possession of a dangerous drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona DUI case discussing whether a police officer had reasonable suspicion to pull over the vehicle the defendant was driving based on the fact that the officer knew the owner of that vehicle had a suspended driver’s license. Ultimately, the court concluded that a police officer has reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop if they are aware the owner of the vehicle has a suspended license.

Reasonable Suspicion Required to Stop a Car

For a police officer to initiate a stop, the officer must have an objective belief that the person is involved in some illegal activity. When it comes to pulling over a motor vehicle, Arizona courts have held that an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the operator is engaged in illegal activity.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer observed the defendant make a “fairly fast turn,” and ran the vehicle’s tag. Upon doing so, the officer learned that the owner of the vehicle had a driver’s license that had been revoked. Using his on-board computer, the officer viewed two pictures of the vehicle’s owner.

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The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that those who are charged with criminal offenses have the right to counsel at all critical stages of a legal proceeding. Relatedly, the Fifth Amendment provides that no person can be compelled to be a witness against themselves in a criminal trial.

Thus, in the 1966 case, Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court held that police must provide certain rights at the time of arrest. Primarily, officers are required to inform arrestees that they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can be used against them, and that they are entitled to an attorney, even if they cannot afford one.

Miranda rights must be read to someone any time they are subject to “custodial interrogation.” While the term is subject to varying interpretations, to establish custodial interrogation, a defendant must show that they were in custody and that police made some statement that would be expected to elicit a response. If police officers do not provide Miranda warnings at the time of arrest, any statements that are made by the arrestee cannot be used in a criminal trial against them.

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