When Can an Arizona Police Officer Demand a Motorist Take a Drug or Alcohol Test?

Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citizens are protected from “unreasonable” searches and seizures. This includes requiring a driver to take a blood or breath test. Over the years, courts have described what constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure. In general, police must have a search warrant in order to show that a search is reasonable. However, police can conduct a search under certain limited circumstances without a warrant.

Clearly, police officers are not able to obtain a warrant when they witness someone commit a crime. Therefore, courts have determined that if a police officer has probable cause to believe that someone has broken the law, the officer can stop and arrest them.

Sometimes, however, police officers have a belief that a crime has been committed, but cannot be sure. In these situations, a police officer can stop a citizen, ask them questions, and conduct an investigation so long as they have reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. In order to justify this type of stop, an officer must be able to point to articulable facts supporting the officer’s belief that the person stopped was involved in criminal activity.

How Police Use Evidence of Intoxication to Justify Searching a Car

While police are supposed to rely on objective information, in reality, this is not always the case. Police routinely act on “hunches” that are based on simple – and often incorrect – stereotypes. While this is not legal, it happens. For example, an officer might think a motorist is too young to have such a nice car. That “hunch” by itself cannot be the basis for a traffic stop; however, if the officer claims he believed the driver to be intoxicated a traffic stop is justified.

Thus, it is not uncommon for an officer to justify the stop of an individual they believe to be involved in criminal activity by claiming that the person was intoxicated. However, as noted above, the officer must be able to point to facts supporting this conclusion. If an officer cannot do so, the stop may be invalid and any evidence recovered as a result of the stop can be suppressed. As a recent case illustrates, sometimes officers will bootstrap their intoxication observations with claims that the driver was also very nervous.

In some cases, an officer’s cited reasons for his suspicion may not make sense, calling into question whether the basis of the traffic stop was legitimate. For example, if an officer claims to smell marijuana smoke emanating from the vehicle at a stop light, it would stand to reason that there would be marijuana in the car. If no marijuana is found, that may cast doubt on the officer’s credibility.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI?

If you have recently been arrested for driving under the influence in Arizona, you should contact the dedicated Arizona DUI defense attorney James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a preeminent Tempe DUI attorney with extensive experience handling all types of DUI cases. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

Additional Resources:

Other Articles of Interest from The Law Office of James Novak’s Phoenix DUI Blog:

Court Discusses Spousal Privilege in Recent Arizona DUI Case, Phoenix DUI Law Blog, December 11, 2018

Court Allows Results of Defendant’s Blood Test to Show Her Knowledge of the Drugs That Were Found in Her Car, Phoenix DUI Law Blog, November 29, 2018

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