Credibility in Arizona DUI Cases

One of the most important roles of a judge or jury overseeing an Arizona DUI case is to weigh a witnesses’ credibility. Not every witness is completely accurate in their recollection of the events they testify about. It may be that a witnesses’ memory is imperfect, or that they are biased in some way. Bias does not always need to be intentional. In fact, it is common for witnesses to have an unconscious bias one way or another based on their beliefs or associations.

In a pre-trial motion, the judge will always be the one making the credibility assessment, as these motions are litigated in front of the judge. However, credibility issues can also arise at trial. In a recent appellate decision, the court affirmed the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress after the trial court found the arresting police officer was credible despite seeming inconsistencies in his story.

According to the court’s opinion, an officer noticed that the defendant was driving with a license plate light that was not working. The officer pulled the defendant’s vehicle over and smelled alcohol coming from the defendant. The officer also noted that the defendant’s eyes were watery and bloodshot, and that his speech was slurred. The defendant was arrested for DUI, and then consented to a blood draw, which revealed his blood-alcohol content to be over the legal limit.

After viewing the officer’s dash camera footage, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the chemical test results. The defendant claimed that the dashcam footage showed that his license plate light was illuminated. At the motion, the officer testified that the only reason why the license plate light looked illuminated was that the officer was shining his spotlight at the rear of the defendant’s vehicle.

The court acknowledged that it could not tell from the footage whether the light was out, but denied the defendant’s motion based on the un-contradicted testimony by the officer that he could not see the license plate from 50 feet away (which is what the law requires). The court explained that an officer only needs to have a reasonable suspicion that a motorist violated a traffic law to pull over their vehicle for further investigation. Here, the court held, the officer’s testimony that he could not see an illuminated license plate light from 50 feet away was a sufficient basis for the traffic stop. Thus, the defendant’s chemical test results were not suppressible.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI Offense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona extreme DUI offense, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Tempe criminal defense attorney who has significant experience handling all types of Arizona DUI cases. Attorney Novak aggressively defends his clients’ rights from the moment he begins to work on a case, up through trial, and at every stage in between. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend your freedom from the allegations you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

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