Articles Posted in Dui

Earlier this month, an appeals court in Arizona considered whether a criminal defendant that had caused a deadly accident was indeed guilty of homicide and aggravated assault. Originally, the defendant was convicted after his truck collided with an ATV while he was under the influence. Despite the defendant’s argument on appeal that the trial court improperly limited his defense, the court of appeals affirmed the original guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a woman was at the store one evening when she saw several teenage girls next to her; she recognized the girls as being the same ones that were on an ATV she had recently passed on the road. Before leaving the store, the woman saw the girls on the ATV drive out ahead of her. She also saw the defendant in this case, in his truck, driving out around the same time. Minutes later, she drove away herself, and immediately noticed debris on the road. She knew there had been an accident, and she called 911 to report that the ATV and the truck had collided.

Investigators and first respondents arrived at the scene, and they found two of the ATV riders had died while the third had suffered serious injuries. The defendant had run away from the accident, and the woman from the store told officers she thought he could have been involved.

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In a recent DUI case coming out of an Arizona court, the state unsuccessfully argued that the defendant’s motion to dismiss should not have been affirmed. On appeal, the higher court confirmed that the defendant had no reasonable way of knowing that he was required to have an ignition interlock system installed on his vehicle.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was originally convicted in June 2012 of one count of driving under the influence and one count of possession of marijuana. In 2012, Arizona law included a provision that required DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their cars for one year upon having their licenses reinstated. By 2016, that provision had been changed, and it began to only apply to DUI convictions involving intoxicating liquor.

The defendant’s license was reinstated in 2017, one year after this relevant change to the law. Confusingly, the defendant’s Motor Vehicle Department record continued to state that he was required to install this ignition interlock device. In 2018, when he was stopped and charged with two counts of aggravated DUI, both charges were based on the fact that the defendant was intoxicated while he was required to have an ignition interlock device.

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Too often, our clients come to us concerned because of charges resulting from a DUI stop. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we know and understand how frightening it is to get pulled over, and that when alcohol is involved, the stakes are high. It is thus crucial to know your rights when you are on the road so that you can be prepared if and when you see the flashing blue lights behind you.

Probable Cause

The first thing to know is that if an officer pulls you over and asks you to perform a breathalyzer test, they must have probable cause to suspect that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means that officers cannot ask you to perform a sobriety test without some indication that you are not sober (the exception to this rule would be if the officers are conducting a DUI checkpoint and you were randomly selected to conduct a test as part of this checkpoint).

Anything that you say or do could be used against you in order for the officer to find probable cause to breathalyze you, test your urine, or test your blood. For example, if you are swerving on the road or if (after the traffic stop) your speech is impaired, the officer will likely have legal grounds to request that you take a sobriety test. In Arizona, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol count (BAC) of .08% or higher, but officers can still arrest you if your BAC is lower than .08% and if their perception is that you are “impaired to the slightest degree.” For example, if your BAC is .07% but you are slurring your words when you speak to the officer, that officer can still arrest you under suspicion of a DUI.

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In a recent opinion involving a DUI, an Arizona court denied the defendant’s appeal. The defendant had been pulled over for reckless driving on the highway, and he was charged with a DUI and with resisting arrest. Despite the defendant’s four different arguments on appeal, the court affirmed the defendant’s original guilty verdict.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer responded to emergency calls that complained of a pickup truck swerving on the highway in Phoenix. The officer found the truck and began following it, observing that the driver was driving recklessly and nearly colliding with multiple vehicles. When the officer turned on his vehicle lights and siren, the truck did not immediately pull over. Eventually, the driver (the defendant in this case) stopped on the shoulder of the road.

During the traffic stop, the officer noticed that the defendant appeared to be impaired by alcohol. The officer performed several tests on the defendant, concluding that the defendant was, indeed, intoxicated. When the defendant learned he was under arrest for DUI, he immediately ran away, dragging the police officer with him. Both men tumbled to the ground, and they fought each other until the officer was able to restrain the defendant. Later, at the hospital, the defendant was found to have a blood alcohol concentration between .190 and .203 within two hours of driving.

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In the past few years, general perspectives and laws around marijuana have shifted in Arizona. In 2010, medical marijuana was legalized. In 2020, Arizonans passed Proposition 207, which legalized the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Because of these changes, marijuana DUI laws in the State are enforced and prosecuted differently than they were even a few years ago. While it is still a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana, there are important developments in the law that might affect how your case moves forward in court if you are arrested for a DUI.

Changes Based on Proposition 207

Historically in Arizona, defendants charged with DUIs have faced a tough legal landscape when it comes to marijuana. Before the passage of Proposition 207, prosecutors did not need to prove that defendants charged with a DUI were impaired to drive – they only needed to show that there was any amount of drugs in the defendant’s body. Under Proposition 207, the situation has changed: now, you cannot be found guilty of a marijuana DUI unless you are “impaired to the slightest degree.” This means that prosecutors now have to prove both that you were under the influence of marijuana and that you were “impaired to the slightest degree” while driving. This added element makes it more difficult for prosecutors to prove their cases. It is important to note that these elements for a DUI case are the same whether or not a defendant has an Arizona medical marijuana card.

Proposition 207 also changes how police officers in Arizona can investigate crimes. Before the passage of the law, officers could use the smell of burnt marijuana as evidence of a crime. Now, however, the smell of burnt marijuana no longer serves as sufficient reason for an officer to infer criminal conduct. There is one important exception to this rule: if an officer believes that a driver is under the influence because that driver commits a traffic offense, the officer can still rely on the smell of burnt marijuana to make an arrest. Under other circumstances, though, because of changes enacted under Proposition 207, the smell of burnt marijuana cannot serve as grounds for an officer to make an arrest in Arizona.

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This holiday season, drivers will be especially eager to visit their family and friends for annual celebrations. With many people having stayed home last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, groups could be gathering in higher numbers this year compared to years past. It is important to be aware, however, that as more Arizonians are out on the road, police officers will be increasing their efforts to conduct traffic stops and charge people with DUIs.

The holidays are always a time when troopers maintain a more active presence on the roads, and, according to a recent news report, troopers have pulled more people over around 2021 holidays than they had in 2019 and 2020. Fourth of July, Labor Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Halloween all saw increases in the number of DUI arrests compared to 2020. In particular, 2021 Halloween arrests were more than Halloween arrests in 2019 and 2020 combined.

The day before Thanksgiving is the first day to be extra careful on the roads this holiday season; the NHTSA reports that 800 people died in the U.S. due to DUI accidents during the Thanksgiving holiday period from 2013 to 2017. Popularly known as “Whisky Wednesday”, the day before Thanksgiving will be a day when state troopers to pull over more people than they typically would.

In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI, the court denied the defendant’s request for a new verdict. The defendant was found guilty of driving while intoxicated and appealed by arguing that the court unfairly instructed the jury to take into account the fact that he had fled the scene when deciding that he was guilty. The court disagreed, ultimately denying the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving a white truck with a female passenger. While driving, the defendant sideswiped another car; then, instead of pulling over, he continued driving down the road. The driver of the second car decided to follow the defendant, noting his license plate and calling the police. The defendant turned onto another road, both occupants got out of the truck, and the female passenger was picked up by another car. The defendant stayed in the truck and drove back to the scene of the accident. He exited the truck and began walking down the street where the accident had occurred.

The police arrived and asked the defendant to stop so they could gather information. The defendant continued walking, initially refusing to stop before eventually complying and answering the officer’s questions. The officer later reported not only that the defendant was intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of .272 percent, but also that his license had been suspended prior to the accident. The State charged the defendant with two counts of aggravated DUI; one for driving impaired with a suspended license and the other for driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit of .08 percent.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI, the defendant’s request for a new verdict was denied. The defendant was found guilty of manslaughter, assault, endangerment, and driving under the influence. He appealed, arguing the verdict was unreasonable because the court allowed the jury to consider a prior DUI offense when making a decision regarding the present DUI offense. The court disagreed, ultimately denying the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving one evening when he hit another vehicle, launching the vehicle into oncoming traffic. The vehicles involved in the collision caught fire, and one driver died, while several others were injured. When police interviewed the defendant at the scene, they noticed that his eyes were droopy, his speech was slurred, and he was unable to hold his balance. He was arrested, and he later admitted to having taken two Oxycodone pills fifteen minutes before driving. A blood-draw further revealed that he had several other sedative drugs in his system.

At the time of the collision, the defendant had a prior misdemeanor conviction for DUI and was required to have an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he drove. Even though the defendant was aware of this requirement, he did not have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle.

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In order to obtain a conviction for a DUI offense, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a blood-alcohol level at or above the legal limit at the time the defendant was operating a motor vehicle. Because police usually rely on a non-portable breath alcohol analyzer or a blood test to prove intoxication, defendants are often not tested until several hours after they have been stopped by police. When a test result after arrest demonstrates a blood alcohol level below the legal limit at the time of the test, police and prosecutors rely on a scientific technique known as retrograde extrapolation to estimate a defendant’s blood alcohol content at the time they were operating a motor vehicle. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently affirmed the aggravated DUI conviction of a defendant whose blood alcohol level had been estimated using retrograde extrapolation.

Retrograde extrapolation is a technique used by police departments and prosecutors to determine and prove a person’s blood-alcohol level at the time they were operating a vehicle, as opposed to when the sample was actually collected. Crime lab chemists will apply a formula that approximate the average rate of decline and a person’s blood-alcohol level and use that to estimate a person’s blood-alcohol level at a time prior to the sample being taken. Although Arizona courts accept retrograde extrapolation as a method of proving intoxication, it is far from a perfect science.

The results of a retrograde extrapolation can be inaccurate for several reasons. First, each person metabolizes alcohol at a different rate, and simply applying the average rate of metabolization to every sample guarantees some inaccurate results. Furthermore, if a defendant consumed alcohol shortly before their arrest, their blood alcohol level may increase rather than decrease in the time before their sample is taken. If standard retrograde extrapolation is applied, the result would be inflated and inaccurate.

After an Arizona DUI conviction, drivers must often install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle before having their driving privileges reinstated. An ignition interlock is a small device installed near the steering column that requires a driver to blow into a tube before starting their vehicle. If there is any alcohol on the driver’s breath, the car will not start. Ignition interlock devices are designed to prevent those with a DUI conviction from getting behind the wheel after having anything to drink. In Arizona, for those required to install an interlock device on their vehicle, it is a crime to drive a vehicle without one.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case involving the question of whether the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew he was required to install an ignition interlock device of his vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that the prosecution must present proof that the defendant “knew or should have known an ignition-interlock restriction was in effect at the time of the offense.” Thus, the court vacated the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, in 2015, the defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI offense. As a part of the defendant’s sentence, he was required to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he drove once his license was reinstated. Initially, the defendant complied with the requirement. The Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), told the defendant that he could remove the device on June 1, 2017.

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