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If you have questions about Arizona’s drunk driving law or your DUI arrest, search through these questions that others have also asked. We do everything we can to provide you with the best drunk driving defense, which partly means providing you with accurate information about AZ DUI law. If these don’t answer all of your questions, feel free to contact us.

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What do police officers look for when searching for drunk drivers on the highways?

The following is a list of symptoms in descending order of probability that the person observed is driving while intoxicated.

The list is based upon research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration:

  • Turning with a wide radius
  • Straddling center of lane marker
  • “Appearing to be drunk”
  • Almost striking object or vehicle
  • Weaving
  • Driving on other than designated highway
  • Swerving
  • Speed more than 10 mph below limit
  • Stopping without cause in traffic lane
  • Following too closely
  • Drifting
  • Tires on center or lane marker
  • Braking erratically
  • Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
  • Signaling inconsistent with driving actions
  • Slow response to traffic signals
  • Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane)
  • Turning abruptly or illegally
  • Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
  • Headlights off

While speeding is not a symptom of DUI, it leads to numerous traffic stops and may result in a DUI arrest. Most officers, however, note that they will only stop you for speeding if you are ten + miles per hour over the posted limit.

If I’m stopped by a police officer and he asks me if I’ve been drinking, what should I say to avoid a DUI arrest?

You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. Please be polite. For example: “I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions” is a good reply. On the other hand, if you only had a few drinks, saying that you had a few drinks is not incriminating: one or two drinks is usually not sufficient to cause intoxication — and it may explain the odor of alcohol on the breath. This will also make you look honest which could be very important later in your drunk driving defense.

Do I have a right to an attorney when I’m stopped by an officer and asked to take a field sobriety test?

Yes, you have a right to speak with an attorney as soon as practical. However, they seldom can get your attorney on the phone that fast. It’s best to refuse the Field Sobriety Tests, the Portable Breath Test, the pen to eye test, and then ask for a phone call to your attorney. In Arizona, there is a right to consult with counsel upon being arrested or before deciding whether to submit to chemical testing, if doing so does not unreasonably deny the timing of your chemical test.

What is the officer looking for during the initial detention at the scene?

The traditional symptoms of intoxication taught at the police academies are:

  • Flushed face
  • Red, watery, glassy and/or bloodshot eyes
  • Odor of alcohol on breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Fumbling with wallet trying to get license
  • Failure to comprehend the officer’s questions
  • Staggering when exiting vehicle
  • Swaying/instability on feet
  • Leaning on car for support
  • Combative, argumentative, jovial or other “inappropriate” attitude
  • Soiled, rumpled, disorderly clothing
  • Stumbling while walking
  • Disorientation as to time and place
  • Inability to follow directions

Should I agree to take a chemical test? What happens if I don’t?

Arizona’s drunk driving law states that taking a chemical test when requested is mandatory. The consequences of refusing to submit to a blood, breath or urine test is a twelve-month driver’s license suspension. Generally, there are two adverse results:

  • Your driver’s license will be suspended for a period of twelve months. This may be true even if you are found not guilty of the DUI charge.
  • The fact of refusal can be introduced into evidence as “consciousness of guilt” in your DUI case. Of course, the defense is free to offer other reasons for the refusal.

Thus, the decision is one of weighing the likelihood of a high blood-alcohol reading against the consequences for refusing. Most attorneys in our firm like their chances for success on a refusal trial but the twelve-month license suspension is more severe to many people than a DUI conviction.

Do I have a choice of chemical tests?

No! The police get to decide for you: breath, blood or urine. They also can demand that you do one or more tests. If you refuse at any time, even after you give a valid sample, you can still lose your license. It is possible that they may let you choose your method of testing. If so, we recommend a blood test.

Analysis of a blood sample is potentially the most accurate. Breath machines are susceptible to a number of problems rendering them often unreliable. The least accurate by far, however, is urinalysis. Thus, if given a choice and if you are confident that you are sober, a blood sample is the wise choice; and a breath test or urine test, being least accurate and most easily impeached, is the best option if you believe your blood-alcohol concentration is above the legal limit.

What is “mouth alcohol”?

“Mouth alcohol” refers to the existence of any alcohol in the mouth or esophagus. If mouth alcohol is present during a breath test, then the results will be falsely high. This would lead to the wrongful conviction of some drivers. This is because the breath machine assumes that the breath is from the lungs and for complex physiological reasons, its internal computer multiplies the amount of alcohol in your breath by 2100 to obtain your estimated “blood” alcohol level. Thus, even a tiny amount of alcohol breathed directly into the machine from the mouth or throat rather than from the lungs can have a significant impact on the BAC reading.

Mouth alcohol can be caused in many ways. Belching, burping, hiccupping or vomiting within 20 to 30 minutes before taking the test could bring vapor from alcoholic beverages still in the stomach up into the mouth and throat. Taking a breath freshener can send a machine’s reading way up (such products as Binaca and Listerine have alcohol in them); cough syrups and other products also contain alcohol. Dental bridges and dental caps can trap alcohol. Blood in the mouth from an injury is yet another source of inaccurate breath test results: breathed into the mouthpiece, any alcohol in the blood will be multiplied 2100 times. Chewing tobacco or even gum could trap tiny micro particles of alcohol. A chronic “reflux” condition from gastric distress or a hiatal hernia can cause elevated BAC readings.

The officer never read me a “Miranda” warning: Can I get my drunk driving case dismissed?

The officer is supposed to give a Fifth Amendment Miranda Warning after he arrests you. Sometimes, however, they do not. If they fail to give you a Miranda Warning, the consequence is that the prosecution cannot use any of your answers to questions asked by the police after the arrest.

The officer took away my copy of my driver’s license and served me with a pink and yellow temporary license: How can they do that if I’m presumed innocent?

Agreed, it is completely unfair. But the law in Arizona, the “per se” statute provides for immediate confiscation of the license if the breath test result is above the legal limit or if you refuse to blow.

CAUTION: In Arizona, you must request an M.V.D. hearing within 15 days of your DUI arrest (or the date you were served with a suspension notice). If you fail to request a hearing, you waive your rights to a hearing and your suspension begins after the fifteenth day passes. Thus, you should always visit an attorney immediately after you are cited.

Will I go to jail if they make a drunk driving conviction?

Jail time is mandatory if you are convicted of a DUI/DWI in Arizona.

The required jail time ranges from twenty-four (24) hours for a first time misdemeanor DUI/DWI (i.e., a non-aggravated DUI/DWI who is a non-repeat drunk driver within the past seven (7) years) to years of incarceration in the Arizona Department of Corrections for aggravated DUI/DWI Aggravated DUI/DWIs most commonly occur when a driver is DUI/DWI and has a suspended license, had a minor child in the vehicle, is a repeat drunk driver, or causes death or serious bodily injury. Other circumstances can also result in an aggravated DUI/DWI charge.

In some circumstances, the court may require that you pay your own jail costs. These costs can range from $80.00 to $100.00 for the first day of incarceration and from $40.00 to $90.00 for remaining days. The final cost depends on the facility and the court has discretion to waive these costs.

What are some DUI penalties I may face?

Employment – Some employers may require that you inform them of any criminal conviction. If you drive a company car, your employer may require that you stop using all company vehicles upon conviction or suspension. A suspension or conviction could result in your employer paying higher car insurance rates.

Licensing boards– A criminal conviction could affect any license you hold. Some boards require that they be notified immediately of any criminal conviction and you may face suspension or loss of your license.

Can I provide my own drunk driving defense? What can an attorney do for me?

You can represent yourself, but this is rarely done and not recommended. DUI is a very complex area of law with increasingly harsh consequences. There are many complicated procedural, evidentiary, constitutional, sentencing and administrative license issues.

An experienced DUI attorney can review the case for defects, suppress evidence, compel discovery of such things as calibration and maintenance records for the breath machine, have blood samples independently analyzed, negotiate for a lesser charge or reduced sentence, obtain expert witnesses for trial, contest the administrative license suspension or challenge your case in other ways. All cases are different so it’s important to see an attorney as soon as possible.

What are the fines for a DUI conviction?

If you are convicted of a DUI/DWI, you will be required to pay a fine plus surcharges. Fines can range from $250.00 to $2500.00 plus surcharges for a misdemeanor DUI/DWI.

Fines for a felony DUI/DWI range from $250 to $150,000.00 plus surcharges. A surcharge can be as much as seventy-seven percent (77%) of the fine. The court has discretion to waive surcharges if the client can demonstrate the financial burden of such charges on his/her family.

I am not an Arizona resident and received a DUI.

If you live out-of-state and have experienced a DUI arrest of conviction in Arizona, you will still be able to drive outside Arizona until notified by your home state that your driver’s license has been suspended. U.S. states subscribe to a centralized database that keeps track of driving records nationwide. Therefore, once your state gets word of your DUI, they will revoke your driving privileges. This usually takes several weeks.

If you are relocating out-of-state and have appealed your DUI charge, you may be able to obtain an out-of-state driver’s license prior to the settlement of your case. Expect to go through a lot of red tape.

Click for a Free Immediate Online Consultation with one of our attorneys, or please call Maasen Law Firm’s Arizona DUI lawyers: 480-778-1500

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