Arizona has some of the harshest driving under the influence (DUI) laws in the country and tough penalties for people convicted of this charge. Many people believe it is impossible to be convicted of this charge without taking a breathalyzer or blood test. However, even if you refuse every test, you can still be convicted of a DUI based on other evidence.
What is a DUI?
In Arizona, ARS 28-1381 provides that it is illegal to drive:
- While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.
- If the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle and the alcohol concentration results from alcohol consumed either before or while driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle.
While other states may separate these two crimes into “Drive While Intoxicated” and “Driving Under the Influence,” Arizona does not. Whether you are operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or, within two hours of operating a vehicle you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher, you can face serious penalties.
These include being convicted of a felony, being forced to pay large fines, jail time, license suspension, and possibly losing the right to vote or carry a firearm. Arizona takes these penalties very seriously, and works aggressively to prosecute drunk drivers, using a number of different tools.
Since Arizona takes a strict stance on DUI charges, you should work with an experienced DUI attorney in order to challenge all the evidence presented against you.
Breathalyzers, Blood and other Tests
In order to determine your BAC level, law enforcement officers can administer a number of different types of tests.
A breathalyzer test looks at the air expelled from your lungs to determine the amount of alcohol in your system. A blood test tests the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, and a urine test, which is less accurate than a BAC blood test, determines the amount of alcohol in your stomach.
At the scene, a police officer may ask you to take a breath test to determine the alcohol content of your blood. Under Arizona law, by operating a motor vehicle in the state, it is implied that you give consent to take these tests.
Our firm cannot advise you whether it is in your best interests to refuse a chemical test. If you do, you should know that you could face serious penalties for refusing to take one or more of these tests.
Under the implied consent law, if you refuse a breathalyzer test or refuse to submit blood or urine samples, your driver’s license will be suspended and you can face additional penalties.
Challenging Chemical Tests in Court
An experienced DUI defense attorney will challenge the results of the chemical tests. These tests are not 100% accurate and their results may contain serious flaws.
For example, your attorney may raise challenges against:
- The personnel who administered the exam to see if they collected samples correctly
- The person who examined the samples in the lab. How much training did this person receive? Does the lab have a poor history of providing false positive results? Were the lab samples contaminated with other samples?
- The results of the test themselves. Does the lab result support the conclusion present by the prosecution?
Your attorney may also question the accuracy of the breathalyzer test in a number of ways, including:
- Looking at your medical history, to determine if you were on medication or had chronic symptoms that artificially increase the amount of alcohol in your breath
- Providing evidence of recent dental work, which can lead to an artificially high alcohol reading
- Challenging the calibration of the breathalyzer test before it was administered. If a test is not calibrated correctly, it can result in false positives.
Field Sobriety Tests
If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test at the scene, you may required to go through a number of different field sobriety tests.
In Arizona, law enforcement officers utilize three different field sobriety tests:
- A Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus examine/test where an officer shines a light into your eyes. This tests for bouncing or quivering of your eyeball, and tests eye movement.
- A Walk and Turn test, where you are instructed to walk nine steps forward, turn around, and walk nine steps back. In this test, your steps should be “heel to toe.”
- Finally, you will be asked to complete the One Leg Stand test, where you are asked to stand on one leg for a period of time.
As with the chemical tests, an experienced DUI attorney can challenge each of these field tests. For example, medication may cause your eyes to quiver but may have no effect on your ability to drive.
Additionally, many people have mobility or balance issues that can make it difficult to stand on one foot for any period of time, or to walk in a straight line while putting heel to toe. The weather, your shoes, the area lighting, as well as the terrain may also play a part in whether you are able to complete these tests to the officer’s satisfaction.
In addition to question the administration and results of the test, your attorney should also challenge the training and experience of the officer who gave you the test. Police officers should be properly trained on how to administer a field sobriety test. Improper training or lack of experience may lead an officer to come to an incorrect conclusion regarding the sobriety of a driver at a traffic stop.
Other ways to be convicted of a DUI without a breathalyzer or blood test
Even if a test is thrown out or determined to be inadmissible, remember – this is not the smoking gun that will get you out of severe penalties, including jail time. Arizona’s laws allow for DUI charges without reference to the legal limit, making it possible to be convicted of this crime even if there is no chemical test. Witness testimony, including testimony from police officers, may still be used against you.
An officer on the stand may testify about:
- Erratic driving
- Slurred speech
- A strong smell of alcohol coming from the car or from the driver
- Your demeanor and attitude during the traffic stop
- Open containers of alcohol in the cup holders
A bartender or waitress who served you alcohol could testify about:
- The number of drinks you were served
- Your demeanor in the bar or restaurant
Evidence of the number of drinks you purchased can also be validated by way of credit card receipts and security cameras.
This type of evidence does not relate to the chemical contents of your body at the time you were arrested. However, it can prove that you were operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to poke holes in the state’s evidence against you by challenging the reliability of the witness testimony. It may be possible to reduce the charges, or have them dismissed completely if the evidence against you is weak or has a lot of flaws.
Instead of risking your future by getting behind the wheel after drinking, you should call an Uber or take a taxi home. It’s simply not worth the risk to you or other drivers on the road.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. If you were arrested for a DUI, contact our experienced DUI attorneys today. We will discuss your options for challenging the charges against you in order to have the charges reduced or dismissed.