The best advice to avoid a DUI conviction is to avoid getting behind the wheel if you have been drinking. Once you have been arrested for a DUI, you will have to fight the charge.
If you are arrested for a DUI in Arizona, a finding of guilty by a judge or jury following trial is not inevitable. It is possible to fight and beat a DUI charge. An experienced attorney will know how to challenge the prosecutor and the police to ensure that you get a fair hearing.
See also: 8 Essential Tips to Avoiding a DUI
Here are several common ways to fight a DUI charge in Arizona.
1. Challenge the legality of the stop or arrest
If police pull over a car, their actions are governed by constitutional and statutory requirements dictating the basis for the stop of your vehicle how they can subsequently interact with you. Criminal defense attorneys should closely examine every aspect of your traffic stop and subsequent arrest for potential violations of your constitutionally guaranteed rights and consistency with state statutory requirements.
The police must have a reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle on the road. If the arresting officers cannot clearly articulate a legal basis indicating why they pulled you over, a judge could determine that the stop was unconstitutional in lacking of reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle.
Additionally, if you are pulled over for running a red light, police officers cannot conduct a search of you or your vehicle without additional suspicion that you are driving under the influence.
2. Challenge the field sobriety test
Standardized field sobriety tests include:
- Shining a light in the driver’s eye to track eye movement and determine the presence of nystagmus (a bouncing or quivering of the eyeball) called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus examine/test;
- Walking along a straight line nine heel to toe steps forward, turning and walking nine heel to toe steps back called the Walk and Turn test; and
- Standing on one leg for a period of time called the One Leg Stand test
An experienced criminal defense attorney can challenge the validity of these tests by:
- Pointing to medical conditions or medication the driver is taking that could skew the test results.
- Looking at to the defendant’s age or physical condition. Many people have difficulty balancing when they are sober. People who are older, overweight, or who have hip, knee, or ankle problems are likely to fail balance tests even when they are sober.
- Examining the environmental factors present during the administering of the exams/tests to determine if they were conducted in accordance with appropriate guidelines.
- An attorney may question the qualifications of the officer who administered the test. The arresting officer may not have had proper training to accurately assess the results of the test. The officer may also intimidate a driver by speaking loudly or standing too close.
- Identifying the physical conditions of the test: If the road surface is uneven or if it was dark outside, someone may stumble when walking in a straight line. People wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes are also at a disadvantage in this situation.
3. Challenge the DUI breath test or chemical test
If a breath or chemical test is taken, this evidence can also be challenged.
Every lab test has a margin of error – no test is 100% accurate. An experienced attorney can examine for errors in breath test results by looking at failure rates of test devices in a lab in comparison with the results themselves.
Blood alcohol content (“BAC”) results derived from breathalyzer tests can be inaccurate for a number of reasons not related to alcohol consumption. Mouthwash or recent dental work can leave amounts of alcohol in someone’s mouth that later show up on a breath testing machine. Certain medical conditions can also increase the amount of alcohol in someone’s mouth. For example, people suffering from acid reflux often burp stomach acid, changing the air content in their mouth. This can skew test results and lead to false positives.
A defense attorney can also challenge a blood sample that is taken at a police station. Again, flaws can be found in the testing procedure. Human error by the person taking the sample, or the lab worker who analyzes it, will also come into play. If the lab has a history of providing false positives, the state may not be able to prove your BAC levels beyond a reasonable doubt.
4. Knowing when to compromise
Taking a case to trial in court is sometimes but not always the right move for someone facing DUI criminal charges.
Sometimes, it is the right decision for a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser agreed charge. In addition to avoiding a trial, you may be able to reduce exposure as to how much time you may spend in jail, as well as the severity or number of charge(s) that could appear on your criminal record.
Our attorneys always fight tooth and nail for our clients, to ensure they get the best possible outcome. Sometimes, DUI charges involve a trial, but sometimes they do not. An experienced criminal defense attorney will make sure that you know all of your options each step of the way so that you can make the best choice for yourself and your family.
The experienced DUI defense attorneys at West, Longenbaugh, and Zickerman have decades of experience representing clients in DUI cases. While this article does not provide legal advice, you can contact our firm for a free consultation and begin fighting your DUI charge.