1. Don’t drive a vehicle after drinking: This first suggestion while obvious is the only way to guarantee you won’t get a DUI. If you have been out drinking you should call a cab or someone to pick you up and drive you home.
2. Strictly obey all traffic laws: It’s time to brush up on your high school drivers ed classes. DUI taskforce officers are trained to stop all vehicles for the any minor traffic violations. While this may seem obsurd it is legal. Therefore, make sure you use your blinker on all turns and lane changes, all ways come to complete stops, and drive the speed limit. Also, make sure your headlights, brake lights and license plate lights are in working condition.
3. Have your license, registration, and insurance ready: If stopped by police officer you should always have your license, registration, and insurance cards in a place you can get to quickly and easily. When officers make contact with DUI suspects they are trained to watch all your reactions or non-reactions. If you don’t have the proper documents when asked it will give them reason to proceed with their investigation and they will put all of this information in their report.
4. Be polite: How you act with the police officer on initial contact can have effects through the investigation all the way to what kind of offer a prosecutor offers you months down the road in court. If you are rude or use foul language or become combative this behavior only helps police justify your arrest and it all gets documented in future police reports. Further, prosecutors are more likely to give a better plea offer to someone who was noted to be polite in the police report.
5. You don’t have to answer questions: When an officer approaches your window one of the fist things he will ask you is whether you have been drinking and how much. It is very common for someone who has been drinking and driving regardless of how impaired they are to say they have only had “2 drinks”. While this amount seems like a safe answer it actually empowers an officer to do a full DUI investigation.
So what do you do? Well, if you have been stopped and you know that you have had to much to drink; you may want to politely refuse to answer questions. The reasoning behind this is your probably going to get arrested for DUI anyways due to whats called signs and symptoms the officer notices of alcohol impairment (blood shot eyes, slurring or odor of alcohol), so telling the officer you have been drinking only gives him more evidence. One could just politely ask the officer what they were stopped for and say you would like your ticket and be on your way. If an officer continues to ask more alcohol related questions just say your not going to answer any questions until you have the opportunity to speak to a lawyer.
6. Do not do field sobriety tests or DRE examinations: If an officer asks you to count, touch your nose, walk a line or follow a laser pointer or pen with your eyes, you should politely refuse. All of these tests are forms of field sobriety tests and are designed to give officers more evidence to spot impaired drivers. Another test is a DRE or drug recognition examination. If an officer suspects your under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs he may attempt to do a series of tests. You can refuse these tests as well. Realize that if any of these tests are completed all of this information will be documented in a police report to be used against you in future prosecution. Sometimes officers will just ask you to do it with out a formal “will you complete this test”. Be aware and refuse all field sobriety tests.
7. Do not take a Portable Breath Test: In Arizona, you can refuse to do a “portable breath test”. This machine is usually done at the site of the stop and its a portable breath test device that the officer can hold in his hands. You should refuse to take this test. If you are unsure whether to take this test the safe thing to do is tell the officer you will not take any tests until you have the opportunity to call a lawyer. NOTE: This breath test is different then a breath test conducted at a DUI taskforce site or police station that is conducted with an intoxilyzer machine.
8. Request to speak to a Lawyer: If possible you should request to speak to a lawyer before letting an officer complete any part of a DUI investigation. This includes field sobriety tests, blood and breath tests. Once you request to speak to an attorney an officer should stop questioning you and let you call an attorney. If an officer arrests you first they should let you call an attorney before trying to resume their DUI investigation.
9. Yes, you should submit to blood or breath test**: Assuming you have already had a chance to speak to attorney you should let an officer conduct a blood or breath test. Why? When you received your driver’s license you agreed that if an officer asked you submit to a blood or breath test and you refused the MVD could suspend your license for 2 years. Further, even if you refuse the test an officer will get a warrant signed by a Judge that will allow them to do one anyway. By agreeing to the test it is possible you will only have a 90 day suspension instead of the 2 year suspension. Note: The breath test here is one done on a machine at the police station or a DUI task force van. It is not the hand held breath machine that you are allowed to refuse. **There are times when it may be good legal strategy to refuse to submit to a blood or breath test. But, before doing so you should call an attorney before making that decision.
10. Exercise your right to an independent blood test: After you submit to a blood or breath test, Arizona law says you have a right to your own independent test. These tests can sometimes be an important tool to defending a DUI case. Make sure you request to have your own independent test.
Please have a safe and fun holiday season and don’t drink drive. These tips are meant to educate people on their constitutional and legal rights. They don’t guarantee future results as all DUI’s are fact specific. Further, with DUI arrests come actions by the MVD. If arrested for a DUI you should ask your attorney about the consequences associated with your privilege to drive and the MVD
Author: Michael Munoz is an associate member of ARW and former Republican candidate for Justice of the Peace. After the campaign Mr. Munoz opened the Munoz Law Office and is a former Major Crimes prosecutor at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office