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Dealing With the Police When They Suspect a DUI

Being pulled over by the police can be a frightening experience. The flashing lights in your rearview mirror, the chatter of the dispatcher over the officer's radio and the bright flashlight being shined in your face create an incredibly intimidating situation which would make anybody nervous regardless of whether or not they have been drinking. These types of encounters can become all the more terrifying if you've had the misfortune of consuming an alcoholic beverage prior to the traffic stop. It is important to understand that DUI officers are looking for a reason to arrest you from the moment they contact you. If you are unable to quickly produce your driver's license or misspeak when answering questions because your nerves are addled, these mistakes can be interpreted as potential signs of alcohol impairment which could result in further investigation.

It is important to understand your rights. Arizona law requires you to produce your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance if you are pulled over by the police. You are not required to answer any questions, including the typical "Where are you coming from?" and "How much have you had to drink tonight?" Most DUI officers will want you to perform roadside field sobriety tests if they believe you have been drinking. Although they are not required to tell you these tests are voluntary, you are under no legal obligation to participate. It is often unwise to participate in these tests for several reasons.

For example, under Arizona law a police officer can arrest a motorist for DUI based only on their observations while conducting the "eye" test. While the officer will likely tell you that he just wants to look at your eyes to make sure you're okay to drive, he is looking for very subtle changes in the movement of your eyes and you will have no way of being able to dispute his claimed observations after the fact. Similarly, the physical coordination tests simply do not give you a fair shake. The officer will not tell you ahead of time how he is scoring the test and, at the end of the day, it is your word against his with regard to your performance.

Once the officer believes that he has probable clause that you are impaired, he has the ability to place you under arrest and invoke Arizona's implied consent law. Once this occurs, the officer can compel you to submit to a blood, breath or urine test. If it can be demonstrated in court that the officer lacked probable cause to conduct the arrest, the results of the chemical test maybe thrown out and could result in a dismissal of the case. If you have been drinking to the point where it is not safe to drive, call a cab or get a ride. If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you are suspected of driving while impaired, you are under no obligation to assist the police in obtaining a blood sample by participating in tests or answering questions that may justify their decision to arrest you.

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