Did you or a loved one get charged with a DWI? Check out these 4 DWI tips for guidance, then contact our Phoenix DWI attorneys to get started.
Pulled Over for DUI
We get presented with hypothetical questions from potential clients. What should they do if they’re pulled over by the police for suspicion of driving under the influence? My answer to that is a blanket answer. Always cooperate with all the lawful orders and requests of police officers. A lot of times, you have people out there that want to become street lawyers and want to debate things with cops that are on the streets doing their job, and remember that all police officers’ number one priority is officer safety. I was a police officer for a long time, and officer safety is a great priority for police officers. They want to get back home to their families. However, police officers do have a body of laws that they must follow as it relates to search and seizure, use of force, and questions they can lawfully ask. In the process of being pulled over specifically for suspicion of driving under the influence, you need to cooperate with the officer’s lawful commands. There could be a series of things that the officer asks you to do, such as take a field sobriety test, a breathalyzer test, and you have to know your rights under those laws.
The officer will ask you for permission to do something. Oftentimes, it’s maybe that they don’t have any other lawful way to get the information from you outside of their consent. If the traffic stop specifically was for suspicion of driving under the influence, the officer would need to detail in his report and explain to you, to some degree, the reason why he pulled you over and how he established reasonable suspicion that you could possibly be driving under the influence. Were you speeding, driving too slowly, or swerving outside of the lines? He would need to explain to you, within reason, why he stopped you, and what you did that caused him to believe that you were driving under the influence.
At that point, you’re under no obligation to give any information that would be used against you in an adverse manner or that could be used against you to prove your guilt. You can plead the fifth, as they say, but cooperating with his reasonable commands is something that would be expected of you. If you’re in doubt, you can always plead the fifth. Don’t resist the officer. Don’t go back and forth with them. Contact a lawyer and make sure that you discuss it with someone who is experienced in dealing with DUI cases, because sometimes cases aren’t filed immediately. Sometimes they’re filed down the road, and so you’d want to talk to a lawyer and make sure that none of your rights have been violated.
Refusing Breathalyzer Tests
As a police officer, I was often asked the question, do I have the right to refuse to take the breathalyzer test? To my surprise, I’m even asked that more so as an attorney, but oftentimes, it’s after the fact, after someone has refused to take the breathalyzer test or after they took it and wondered if the evidence obtained from the breathalyzer is admissible in their DUI trial. What you must understand is that the breathalyzer test, whether it’s blood, breath, or urine or any other type of evasion into the body, under the law, is considered a search. It is a search of your person. Your breath would be the evidence, blowing into the machine. Your blood would be the evidence, drawing it out with a needle. They would either need a warrant from a judge to get it, or they would need consent from you to get it.
You can always refuse consent when consent is the method to get it. Consent is completely up to you. Does that mean that the police officer or whomever will not go get a warrant? No, it doesn’t mean that necessarily at all. Sometimes the police officers will go get a warrant, especially if they have reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence. Most jurisdictions have it to where, if you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, your license is automatically suspended. While they may not get the breath or blood in time to establish that you were over the legal limit, you would still waive your rights to a driver’s license, because again, that’s a DMV process. You have a license to drive, not a right to drive, in most jurisdictions in the United States. Absolutely, you could refuse to take a breathalyzer. It’s not necessarily wise all the time to refuse to take that, because again, the officer is left with the option to go get a warrant.
If they suspect that a crime is afoot, and the evidence, the blood, or breath that’s in your body is evidence to that crime, then they could get a warrant from a neutral magistrate that would sign off on it. People refusing breathalyzer tests happens every day in the field. People refuse to take those tests, so again, I advise clients all the time, yes, you can refuse. Is it wise to refuse all the time? No. If you refuse, is there another way for the officers to get the blood, breath, or urine? Absolutely. There is a warrant they can get. They can get a warrant from a judge, but again, if this ever happens to you, you need to let your attorney know. It’ll be listed in the police report, but you let the attorney know why you refused so they can make these arguments in court. If there was a warrant, let the attorney know so the attorney can review the warrant and make sure that the police officer had sufficient basis for that warrant while they were conducting that search of your person.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
Arizona, the 48th state of the United States of America, is a very fast-growing state, particularly here in the Phoenix metro area. There’s a lot of immigration, if you will, internal immigration from other states here. People migrate to Arizona because of the cost of living, and they have various concepts as it relates to DUI and what the acceptable blood alcohol content limit is.
What people find when they get here is that Arizona, in a lot of ways, is standard with the rest of the country. The BAC level 0.08 is the standard when you’re starting to charge folks with DUI. It’s the same in California and a lot of our neighboring states. That 0.08 blood alcohol content is the legal limit once you start charging people with DUI under specific statutes. Here, the statute is 28-1381(A). I would caution everyone that some impairment is still impairment, and just because you don’t reach the 0.08 limit does not mean that you’re not impaired and that you can’t be charged with impaired driving. It may not be under 28-1381(A), but you can be charged with impaired driving, and so the rule of thumb is, don’t gamble. Don’t negotiate. If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive.
Now, I like any other lawyer would love your business, but this is the kind of business that we don’t chomp at the bit for, because it puts the public in danger, and so if you think you’ve been drinking, if you’re starting to feel it, there are plenty of opportunities not to drive. There’s Uber, and Lyft, and so many other options. You can call a friend, or you can stay where you are until you know you’re not under the influence. The reason why I say that so strongly is, again, it may not make good business sense, but it makes public safety sense. Once you realize how expensive DUI charges are, not only do you have the court fines and the inconvenience of having your license suspended, time in jail, and an interlock device that could cost $1,200, then you have a huge lawyer bill. The minimum for a basic DUI is somewhere around 3,500. Should they go to trial, you’re talking $7,000- $10,000.
Is it worth it to chance it? It’s absolutely not, and so if you think you’re anywhere near that 0.08, and again, it could be less than that, find some other means to get home for the interest of public safety and yourself. DUIs happen to be very expensive, and here in Arizona there are some mandatory penalties. The judges don’t even have discretion on some of these things, so you’re going to sit down and talk with a lawyer if you’re ever charged with DUI so they can seek out what little wiggle room there may be.
Commercial Drivers License DUI (CDL DUI)
Recently, I had a client with a commercial driver’s license who was convicted of DUI, and their concern was, how is this going to affect my commercial driver’s license? I had a very serious, fact-based conversation with them regarding this, because a DUI doesn’t only affect those with commercial driver’s license. Most people with commercial driver’s license use that driver’s license for employment purposes, and the impact of DUI is widespread, because it does bleed over into employment, not only for those that have commercial driver’s license, because in Arizona, the threshold for commercial driver’s license is lower than the 0.08.
It affects different areas of your life. If you drive for a living, it’s certainly going to affect that. On employment applications that involve driving or usage of company vehicles, you have to disclose that. If it involves taking kids to school, and you have a custody matter before the court that’s going to require you to drive the kids back and forth to school, all of these things count.
I often tell clients stay away from DUI, because while we’ve been able in some cases to work miracles for clients that have been charged with DUI, it does have substantial effect outside of just the legal ramifications for being charged with DUI. Being charged with DUI will have an effect on your commercial license. Some of the same mandatory guidelines are imposed on the commercial driver’s license as they are with regular driver’s licenses, so if you have a commercial driver’s license, and you’ve been charged with DUI, please let your attorney know immediately. There are remedies and safeguards that can be put in place to preserve the license if possible so that you can continue to work, because that is what your livelihood is attached to.
Were you pulled over while driving a commercial vehicle and have questions about these 4 DWI tips? Contact our dedicated Phoenix DWI lawyers for a free confidential consultation. Let us fight to protect your rights.
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