Articles Posted in DUI Case Law

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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Normally, after someone is found guilty of an Arizona DUI charge by a judge or jury, they are able to appeal the case to a higher court, arguing that their conviction should be reversed or a new trial granted based upon some legal error committed at the court below. There are many types of errors that can result in a successful appeal, including an improperly denied motion or a wrongly decided objection.

Of course, beating a case outright is always the goal when taking a case to trial. However, the ultimate decision is up to the judge or jury. When a finder of fact rules against a defendant, it is important that they have all available options to appeal any adverse decision that was made in their case. Thus, preserving all potential issues for appeal is an important consideration for any Arizona DUI attorney.

As noted above, when a case is taken to trial in front of a judge or jury, and the defendant is found guilty, they will have an automatic right to an appeal to the Arizona Court of Appeals. However, there are a few circumstances in which a defendant will be considered to have waived their right to appeal.

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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.

The 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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