In Arizona, a drunk driving arrest can have serious consequences. Whether you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or super extreme DUI, and whether this is your first offense or you are being charged as a repeat offender, you are facing jail time and various other penalties. The good news is that there are many potential defenses available, and an experienced DUI defense lawyer will be able to help you mitigate the consequences of your arrest – if not avoid a conviction entirely.
Before we discuss the potential defenses to DUI charges in Arizona, it is important to stress that these are indeed possible defenses. All DUI defenses are highly fact-specific, and your Phoenix DUI defense attorney will need to carefully assess the facts of your case to determine what defenses you have available.
7 Potential Defenses to an Arizona DUI
1. Inaccurate or Unreliable Breath Test Results
Multiple issues can lead to breath test results being incorrect or unreliable. Failure to properly calibrate the testing device (i.e. an Intoxilyzer) is one potential defense. Still, various other factors can lead to a “false positive” for breath alcohol concentration (BAC) as well. These include (but are not limited to):
- The Police Officer Waited Too Long to Administer the Breath Test – If you were drinking shortly before you got pulled over, your BAC could have risen between the time of your traffic stop and the time the arresting officer administered your breath test);
- You have a Health Condition – Certain health conditions, such as acid reflux, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), and heartburn, can cause you to blow a high BAC even if you haven’t been drinking.
- Your Breath Sample was Contaminated – From cleaning solvents to prior suspects’ breath residue, some potential contaminants could falsely inflate your BAC reading.
2. Inaccurate or Unreliable Blood Test Results
If you were required to give a blood sample, it might also be possible to challenge the results of your blood test on multiple grounds. Similar to the breath test, calibration and contamination issues can both provide defenses to high BAC readings, as can items such as the inadvertent switching of samples and sample fermentation.
3. Improper Field Sobriety Test (FST) Administration or Performance Assessment
In Arizona, you are not required to take the field sobriety tests (FSTs) during a DUI traffic stop. The police officer probably won’t tell you this, but it is your right to refuse if you choose to do so (and, generally speaking, you should). If you “voluntarily” submit to the FSTs, your performance on the tests can be used against you, but there are several potential defenses to “failing” a field sobriety test as well. For example:
- The Police Officer Improperly Administered the FSTs – When administering the three standardized field sobriety tests (the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn), police officers in Arizona must follow a strict protocol. If the officer who pulled you over deviated from the standard testing requirements, this might provide you with a defense.
- The Police Officer Failed to Consider Relevant Factors – Similar to your BAC; various factors can affect your performance on the FSTs other than being drunk. These range from bad weather to wearing high heels to having a physical disability.
4. Lack of Reasonable Suspicion
When you are driving, the police cannot pull you over for any reason they choose. Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to conduct a traffic stop, the police must have “reasonable suspicion” to believe that you have committed (or been involved in) a crime.
If you were weaving, changing speeds abruptly, or driving significantly above or below the speed limit, then the arresting officer probably had reasonable suspicion to stop you for DUI – as these are all common indicators of drunk driving. However, if you were singled out based on your race, gender, or any other factor unrelated to law enforcement, then your traffic stop may have been unconstitutional.
5. Lack of Probable Cause
In addition to requiring reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, the Fourth Amendment also requires “probable cause” to make an arrest. This is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion, and it requires the arresting officer to have a reasonable belief, based on valid evidence, that you are guilty of DUI.
If you were arrested without probable cause, then your arrest was illegal, and any evidence obtained subsequent to your arrest may deemed be inadmissible in court. If the prosecutor’s office doesn’t have any admissible evidence with which to convict you, then it doesn’t matter whether you were under the influence at the time of your arrest.
6. Failure to Read Your Rights
Once you are arrested and taken into custody, the police are required to read your Miranda rights before they question you. If you are interrogated in custody without being “Mirandized,” then any statements you make in response to police questioning may be deemed inadmissible in your DUI case as well.
7. You Did Not Have “Actual Physical Control” of a Vehicle
Under Arizona’s DUI Statute (A.R.S. Section 28-1381), it is illegal to, “drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle,” (i) while under the influence of alcohol, or (ii) while your BAC is 0.08 percent or above. In some cases, there will be a question as to whether the defendant was in “actual physical control” of his or her vehicle at the time of his or her DUI arrest.
If you were driving on the road when you got pulled over, this isn’t likely to be a defense that you have available (though you could have one or more of the defenses listed above). But, in other circumstances, arguing a lack of “actual physical control” could be the key to avoiding a DUI conviction.
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Are you facing a DUI, extreme DUI, super extreme DUI, or aggravated DUI charge in the Phoenix or Tempe area? If so, we encourage you to contact us for a free initial consultation. To speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer in confidence, call 480-405-7922 or enquire online now.