Most drunk driving cases in Arizona and around the country begin with a routine traffic stop. Police officers often suspect that motorists are under the influence of drugs or alcohol after observing them driving recklessly. However, they may also begin to suspect impairment after initiating a traffic stop for some other reason and then detecting the odor of alcohol or marijuana or observing signs of intoxication such as bloodshot or watery eyes, poor coordination or slurred speech. When police officers determine that drivers may be impaired, they could ask them to perform a series of field sobriety exercises or take a breath test.
Roadside sobriety tests
Taking a standardized field sobriety test involves walking heel-to-toe, standing on one leg and watching an object that a police officer moves from side to side. Motorists who consumed alcohol or took drugs before getting behind the wheel will find it difficult to complete these tasks. However, determining whether or not an individual passed a field sobriety test is a subjective judgement, which is why police officers may also ask drivers who they believe to be intoxicated to take breath tests. When roadside breath tests reveal that drivers have blood alcohol concentrations of .08% or higher, they are generally taken to a police station to be tested again using more sophisticated equipment.
Drunk driving penalties
The penalties for violating Arizona’s drunk driving laws can be severe. Motorists convicted of DUI can be fined, sent to jail and ordered to attend substance abuse counseling sessions. They may also lose their driving privileges and be required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. The penalties for drunk driving are even more severe when drivers are involved in accidents that cause serious injury or death or have BACs that are significantly higher than the .08 legal limit.
Mounting a defense against DUI charges
There are several defenses that experienced criminal law attorneys may mount against drunk driving charges. Attorneys could seek to have DUI charges dismissed if the police officers involved initiated a traffic stop without the requisite reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed, or they could challenge the validity of breath test results if the equipment used to conduct them was miscalibrated or poorly maintained. If you are charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a defense attorney could decide what kind of strategy to use after studying the police report and assessing the accuracy of the toxicology evidence.