In Arizona, DUI is a serious criminal offense that is aggressively prosecuted and punished. In most cases, the police must have probable cause that an individual is drunk or driving dangerously to stop them for DUI.
However, this is not the case if law enforcement officials set up a DUI checkpoint in Arizona. If you are stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, here is what you should do to protect your rights.
How DUI Checkpoints Work in Arizona
Like many states, the police in Arizona use sobriety checkpoints to combat drunk driving. They must follow specific requirements in order for the DUI checkpoint to be legal.
Checkpoints are often set up during holidays or specific events, such as sporting or music events. However, they can be scheduled at other times too. Here are some of the rules that law enforcement officials must follow:
- Plan. Law enforcement officials must create a plan on who will be randomly stopped at the checkpoint. For example, they could create a rule that every fifth or tenth driver would be stopped.
- Publication. The police must notify the public of a checkpoint before it is set up. This can be done by publishing the checkpoint in newspapers, television, and government websites.
- Clear marking. Law enforcement officials must clearly mark where a DUI checkpoint is being set up.
At the checkpoint, one officer will stop drivers according to the plan that was created. They would ask a person who is stopped to provide their driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. While obtaining this information, they would be looking for signs that the driver is intoxicated, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the odor of alcohol on the person’s breath.
If there are indications that a person is intoxicated, the police would ask the driver to pull over to the side. Another law enforcement official would be waiting to administer a field sobriety test. If the driver failed this test, they would be arrested and taken to the police station to have a blood or breathalyzer test conducted and to be booked.
How to Handle a DUI Checkpoint
If you are approaching a sobriety checkpoint, you do not want to make mistakes that lead to your arrest or weaken the defenses you have to the DUI charges you may face. Here are steps you should take to protect your rights:
- Remain calm. As you approach a DUI checkpoint, you should remain calm and get your documents out to hand to the police officer. This will avoid disputes about whether you are being cooperative or are making suspicious movements when retrieving your documents.
- Don’t volunteer information. You should politely answer the officer’s questions with as little detail as possible. In many cases, a simple yes or no will be sufficient. Do not volunteer any information since your statements could be used against you if you are arrested for DUI.
- Don’t make a u-turn. You should not make an illegal U-turn or drive through the checkpoint. The police could chase and stop you. However, if there is a street or parking lot near the checkpoint where you can legally turn, you can do so. The police would not have probable cause to stop you for doing this.
- Don’t agree to a search of your vehicle. You do not have to agree to allow the police to search your vehicle. If they ask for permission to search it, you should politely say no.
- Don’t take a field sobriety test. You do not have to agree to submit to a field sobriety test, and taking one could give the police evidence to arrest you for DUI. You should politely refuse to take a field sobriety test. Be sure not to be argumentative or hostile.
- Remain silent. If you are arrested, you have a right to remain silent. Exercise this right immediately, and do not answer any questions the police ask you.
- Retain an attorney. You should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are charged with DUI. A lawyer will mount a strong defense strategy that could result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Were you or a family member arrested for DUI in Flagstaff or Northern Arizona? Our knowledgeable criminal defense team will aggressively fight the charges you face so that you achieve the best outcome given your situation. To learn more about our track record of success in these cases and how we can assist you, call our Flagstaff office or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.