Articles Posted in Probable Cause

Late last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona DUI case in which the court had to determine if the officer’s arrest of the defendant was supported by probable cause. The case gave the court the opportunity to discuss probable cause in the DUI context, and what the prosecution must show to establish that probable cause existed to arrest someone for DUI.

The Facts of the Case

Two men were taking their two-year-old cousin to the pharmacy by car. The driver parked the car, and each man grabbed one of the young child’s hands as they walked across the parking lot toward the entrance to the pharmacy. As they were walking, however, the young child broke free from the men and was struck by the defendant’s truck.

Police officers responded to the scene and immediately learned that the child had died from the collision. One officer approached the defendant, who was huddled over and clearly distraught. As the officer bent down to talk to the defendant, he claimed that the defendant had a “strong, pungent” odor of alcohol coming from her breath. When asked, the defendant responded that she had consumed two cans of beer earlier that day. The officer also noticed that the defendant’s eyes were watery and her face was flushed. However, the officer acknowledged that the defendant’s appearance may have been due to her distraught state and was not clearly evidence of intoxication. The officer then arrested the defendant.

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While getting pulled over may seem random – and indeed, sometimes it is – police officers are not permitted to pull motorists over for no reason. In fact, when a traffic stop is challenged, police officers must be able to articulate the reasons they relied upon for stopping a motorist. If a police officer does not have an adequate reason to stop a motorist, or impermissibly extends the length of a traffic stop in order to conduct an investigation unrelated to the reason for the stop, any evidence seized as a result of the stop must be suppressed.

Many police “fishing expeditions” begin with an officer stopping a motorist they believe is engaged in illegal activity for unjustifiable reasons. For example, a stop may be based on the way the person looks, or an aggressive – but not necessarily illegal – traffic maneuver. The same is true for a police officer’s reasons to search a car.

Of course, police are permitted to pull a motorist over for a traffic violation and may search a car when there is evidence of criminal activity readily observable inside the car. One of the most common reasons police officers use to justify both traffic stops and searches of a cars is a belief that the driver was intoxicated. However, evidence of intoxication is notoriously suspect because it is subjective and there is often a major lack of documentation.

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In a recent opinion, an Arizona state court discussed the “medical draw exception” to the general requirement that police obtain a search warrant before taking the blood of someone they suspect to be under the influence. The case offered the court the opportunity to clarify the narrow set of circumstances under which the exception applies.

The Facts of the Case

A witness happened upon a vehicle that had crashed into a business’ entry gate. The witness saw the defendant turn off the engine and then slump over the wheel. The witness called 911, and the fire department came to assist the defendant.

The fire department personnel found the defendant unconscious, with no visible trauma, behind the wheel. They removed the defendant and took him to the hospital, where several tests were conducted, and again, no visible trauma was noted. The defendant was hooked up to a ventilator while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with him. Hospital staff took the defendant’s blood for medical purposes and securely stored it. A nurse noted that the defendant’s breath smelled of alcohol.

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If you're charged with drunk driving, it can have a major impact on your life and livelihood. That's why it's so important to speak with an experienced Phoenix DUI defense attorney. A skilled lawyer can examine the circumstances of your case and help ensure that all of your rights were observed.

Sometimes motorists are pulled over without sufficient cause. That could be ground for dropping charges or adjusting penalties. Let's examine how probable cause and reasonable suspicion figure into drunk driving cases.

Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion for DUI Stops

For expert criminal defense and legal counsel, the people of Phoenix know that they can rely on The Law Office of James Novak. Using our legal experience and years of know-how, we will help ensure fair hearings and that the legal system works fairly.

This commitment to fairness and proper legal process is extremely important when it comes to drunk driving cases and crafting strong DUI defense strategies. In a number of cases, the DUI charge comes down to questions of probable cause.

What Is Probable Cause?

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