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When the government brings a criminal case against a citizen, it is the government’s burden to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Specific to Arizona DUI cases, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was intoxicated and that they were in physical control of a vehicle. This second element was the recent focus of a state appellate decision.

According to the court’s opinion, a family was traveling northbound on Interstate 17 when the driver saw headlights drifting off and on the road. A few moments later, the driver could see that the headlights sharply veered off the road and it appeared as though the vehicle was rolling. The driver made a U-turn to see if anyone needed help.

One of the family members in the vehicle saw the defendant about ten feet away from a damaged pickup truck. When the family stopped, the defendant approached them and asked them not to call the police. The defendant asked for a ride to the next exit, assuring the family that he was not in need of medical attention. However, the defendant was bleeding, and the family called an ambulance.

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.

In any Arizona DUI case, the defendant can file a motion to suppress certain evidence. When a motion to suppress is filed, it is the prosecution’s burden to prove that the evidence it is intending on using at trial was lawfully obtained. Often, Arizona motions to suppress focus on statements that were made prior to an arrest, a police officer’s observations of a motorist, or physical evidence that was obtained as a result of a traffic stop. An Arizona motion to suppress can also keep chemical test results or formal, recorded statements out of evidence.

An Arizona drunk driving charge must be established by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt. To meet this burden, the prosecution must present evidence proving each element of every crime that is charged against a defendant. In the case of an Arizona DUI case, this typically requires the prosecution prove:

  1. The defendant was driving a motor vehicle;

When someone consumes alcohol, their blood-alcohol content (BAC) will increase over time, before it starts to decrease as the alcohol dissipates from their blood. For many Arizona DUI offenses, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s blood was above the legal limit. Thus, police officers will often try to take a driver’s blood as quickly as they can; however, in some cases, a driver’s blood is not taken until a later time. Typically, blood must be drawn within two hours of the time when the defendant was driving.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona DUI case discussing a process called “retrograde extrapolation” by which a chemist can estimate what a person’s BAC was at a specific time by looking at what their BAC was at a later time. The process is used by prosecutors to estimate what a defendant’s BAC would be at the time they were driving. Prosecutors will especially rely on this technique when they were unable to take a defendant’s blood within the two-hour time frame

According to the court’s opinion, witnesses observed the defendant get into a car accident between 4 and 6 p.m. After the accident, the witnesses noticed that the defendant smelled of alcohol and seemed off balance. Police officers arrived on the scene at 8 p.m, and the defendant’s blood was taken at 9 p.m. The results indicated that the defendant’s BAC was .336. Because the defendant’s blood was not taken until between three to five hours after the accident, prosecutors called an expert witness to explain the concept of retrograde extrapolation, and provide the jury an estimate of the defendant’s BAC at the time of the accident.

The United States and Arizona Constitutions each provide the citizens of Arizona with many important rights when they are charged with a crime. As a matter of constitutional law, the protections provided by federal law act as a floor, meaning that states cannot offer their citizens fewer rights. However, states can choose to provide citizens with additional rights through a state statute or constitution.

In the case of the right to a jury trial, the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” Since the ratification of the Bill of Rights, this has been interpreted to mean all defendants facing charges of “serious” crimes.

Many states have abolished the distinction between serious and non-serious crimes when it comes to the right to a jury trial, and they allow for all defendants to demand a jury trial, regardless of the seriousness of the charge that they are facing. However, while Arizona state law provides some additional protections for criminal defendants, state law does not allow jury trials for all defendants.

Getting pulled over for a DUI is a terrifying experience. While each Arizona DUI arrest is different, one of the more common ways police officers arrest someone for driving under the influence of alcohol is to tell the driver that they are suspected of DUI and to conduct a roadside breath-alcohol test. Police officers must articulate some basis for requesting a breath test, however, the officer’s subjective belief that a driver is under the influence will often be sufficient. Obviously, introducing this type of subjectivity raises concerns that can be addressed in pre-trial motions to suppress.

Putting the validity of the traffic stop aside for the moment, once an officer determines that a driver is potentially intoxicated, the driver is asked to blow into a tube that is connected to a small machine. The machine analyzes the alcohol content in the driver’s breath, and returns a number that represents an approximation of the person’s blood-alcohol content (BAC). In Arizona, the legal limit is a .08 BAC.

For those unfamiliar with the process, it may seem that once a result above .08 is returned there is no defense and the only option is to plead guilty. The reality is that most people who are arrested for DUI end up pleading guilty to negotiated or reduced charges because it is easier and quicker than taking the case to trial where, if they are found guilty, they may face a more serious sentence. However, if challenged, the prosecution must be able to prove that the machine used to administer the test was accurate, properly calibrated, and correctly used by the police officer.

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.

According to a recent news report, Arizona law enforcement agencies stepped up their DUI enforcement efforts over Halloween week in an attempt to curb the number of Arizona DUI cases. The statistics from the enforcement effort have not yet been released; however, last Halloween, there were a total of 364 Arizona DUI arrests made over the Halloween holiday. This figure was down significantly from 2017, in which there were 447 DUI arrests on Halloween.

In the recent article, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety encouraged everyone to have a good time, which, he acknowledged, may involve consuming alcohol. However, he urged those who drank alcohol to take an Uber, Lyft, or some other form of transportation rather than get behind the wheel.

The period beginning on Halloween and going through the New Year is a time when law enforcement is out in droves searching for those who are driving under the influence. While motorists are advised to arrange for alternate transportation when they have had too much to drink, it is also vital they understand their rights when there is an increased police presence on the road.

In Arizona, DUI law can be quite complicated. One reason for this is that there are several different Arizona DUI laws on the books, and the differences between each of the offenses is not necessarily apparent. Starting with the least serious, the most common drunk driving crimes in Arizona are as follows:

Misdemeanor DUI: Most first and second DUI offenses are considered misdemeanors under Arizona law. Typically, a misdemeanor DUI requires the prosecution to prove that a motorist’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) was at least 0.08%, or that they had a controlled substance in their system. However, DUI convictions can be sustained on evidence that a driver was “impaired to the slightest degree,” even without a blood or breath test. Even for a first-time DUI arrest, the consequences of a conviction can be severe, and typically include:

  • At least one day in jail;

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona DUI case affirming the defendant’s conviction. The case required the court to determine if police were required to obtain a warrant before taking the defendant’s blood. Ultimately, because the defendant gave his consent for the blood draw, the court determined that no warrant was necessary.

Consent is one of the primary ways that law enforcement officers are able to take a motorist’s blood. Under the state and federal constitutions, police officers need to have a warrant before they can conduct a “search” of a person. Courts have held that a blood draw constitutes a search, and thus, police officers need to obtain a warrant before taking a blood sample. However, no warrant is necessary if a motorist provides their consent to the blood draw. And given the administrative penalties associated with refusing to comply with a request for a blood draw, many motorists end up consenting to a blood test.

Providing consent to an Arizona blood draw can raise several issues. Most importantly, consent must be validly given to be effective. In other words, police cannot coerce a motorist into giving their consent by making threats. Additionally, even if a motorist gives consent, they are allowed to change their minds and revoke consent at any time. If consent is revoked, then the police officers must go through the proper channels to obtain a warrant. Notably, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently issued some important decisions which made some significant changes to this area of the law.

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