What Are Your Rights During a DUI Stop?
Driving while intoxicated from alcohol or drugs can impair your ability to operate a vehicle. This can put your life and the lives of your passengers and others on the road at risk. However, if the police investigate you for a DUI, you still have rights that they must uphold for the evidence and charge to be admissible.
It’s important that you understand your rights if you have already been pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence or before a DUI stop occurs. That way, you can advocate for yourself and strengthen your case should an arrest occur.
Knowing and fighting for your rights are key in making sure you don’t face a conviction of DUI when your vehicle was unlawfully searched, you were denied the right to speak to a lawyer, or you were charged based on faulty field sobriety tests. If you believe any of your rights were violated during your DUI stop, you can work with a DUI defense attorney to collect evidence and build a defense for your case.
Your Rights During a DUI Stop in Arizona
This page goes over each of your rights in greater detail, but here is an outline of the main rights you have during a DUI stop:
- The right to remain silent
- The right to counsel
- The right to refuse field sobriety tests
- The right to refuse preliminary breath tests
- The right to refuse a police officer to search your vehicle unless they have the legal grounds to do so
In addition to these rights, the police officer has duties he or she must uphold during a DUI traffic stop, including:
Allowing you the right to counsel when you ask
Informing you of the consequences of refusing to take a blood alcohol test
Reading your Miranda Rights to you upon your arrest
You Have the Right to Remain Silent During the Stop
One of the most critical rights you have during a DUI stop in Arizona is that you have the right to remain silent. That means you don’t have to answer the officer’s questions about where you are coming from, what you were doing before driving, or whether you were drinking.
Avoid giving answers to any of these questions from an officer, as your answers could be perceived as admitting fault. Then, these statements could be used against you in a DUI case.
Still, cooperate with the police officer during the stop by providing the required documents, like your license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance, which are all standard in any traffic stop.
You Have the Right to Counsel During the Investigation
You also have a right to counsel, so at any time during the investigation, you may ask to speak with a lawyer.
You can exercise your right to counsel when:
- You suspect the police will investigate you for driving under the influence.
- The police start asking you questions about where you were and what you were doing before getting behind the wheel.
- The police ask to search your vehicle, with or without reasonable suspicion.
- The police attempt to or successfully arrest you, such as when they start to read your Miranda Rights.
- The police book you in jail or take you to a local hospital to get a BAC test.
The earlier you ask to speak to a lawyer, the more support you may secure. They can come down to the scene to collect evidence that demonstrates your state of mind or potential inebriation, such as whether you have slurred speech, balance issues, or bloodshot eyes.
A criminal defense lawyer can advise you on whether you should agree to take a Breathalyzer or complete field sobriety tests. For instance, if your breathalyzer results come back at exactly 0.08 but you’re not showing any signs of intoxication that would impair your driving, you may have grounds to have your charges dropped. Your criminal defense lawyer can also help you avoid getting booked, charged, or jailed when they’re working the case from the start.
You Have the Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests
It’s common practice for police officers to have drivers suspected of driving under the influence complete field sobriety tests.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists the standardized field sobriety tests as:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test: This test is when an officer moves a pen in front of you and watches your gaze go from side to side. In this test, the officer is looking for an “involuntary jerking of the eyes,” which is supposed to indicate potential intoxication.
- One-Leg Stand test: In this test, an officer will have you stand on one foot and lift the other approximately six inches off the ground. You’re asked to hold that stance for about 30 seconds. If you sway, put your foot down to avoid falling, or use your arms to keep your balance, you may exhibit signs of intoxication per NHTSA research.
- Walk-and-turn test: This is a divided-attention test that has you walk, heel to toe, nine steps forward, turn around, and walk back the same way.
Some police forces also train officers to conduct non-standard field sobriety tests, including standing with feet together and tilting one’s head backward, reciting the alphabet (even backwards), counting backwards, and more.
While the NHTSA and other safety research institutions have published data showcasing these tests’ effectiveness, these tests cannot always be trusted 100 percent. Many factors can affect someone’s ability to pass these tests outside of alcohol or drug intoxication. For instance, a driver may have an issue with balance due to a medical condition or exhibit nystagmus (the shakiness in the eyes as they glide side to side) due to fatigue or a natural occurrence.
With that, you don’t have to complete these tests as they don’t always prove that a driver is inebriated. If the officer asks you to complete these tests, you can refuse to consent or ask for a lawyer, who can help prevent you from having to go through unreliable field sobriety tests.
You Have the Right to Refuse Blood Alcohol or Other Chemical Tests
You have a right to refuse to take blood alcohol and drug content (BADC) tests, such as:
- A blood alcohol content (BAC) test, which is typically done through an analysis of a blood sample.
- A Breathalyzer, which is a machine you blow into that calculates BAC based on your breath.
- A drug test, which is another chemical test using your blood to detect traces of illicit drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, in your system.
You do have a right to refuse one of these tests, but it can come with a heavy price—losing your license for a year because Arizona abides by implied consent laws.
Arizona’s Implied Consent Laws
Implied consent refers to the rule that all drivers who’ve been lawfully arrested for a DUI charge must submit to a BADC test. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (AZDOT), refusing to take the test after an arrest can result in penalties, including having your license revoked for one year by the Motor Vehicle Division, regardless of what your blood alcohol level was.
Considerations on Your Right to Refuse Testing
Consider your prior history with DUI charges. If you’ve had a misdemeanor DUI charge in the last seven years, you must comply or risk losing your driving privileges and serving more time in jail. If you’re currently using an ignition interlock device and refuse to take a breathalyzer or other test, you could also face penalties.
However, a police officer must inform you of all the consequences related to your situation when they ask you to submit to testing. For example, if this is your first-ever DUI investigation, they must let you know that refusing to submit to a test could result in you losing your license if you’re above the legal limit. A police officer should also inform you that you could face certain penalties if you do not submit to testing per Arizona DUI laws.
Another element to consider is that the officer must have reasonable suspicion to conduct these tests. If there is no alcohol on your breath, no signs of slurred speech or balance issues, no smell of drugs in the vehicle, and no other signs that you were driving impaired, the officer may not legally have a right to submit you to testing. That’s where you may want to consult a criminal defense lawyer.
These Tests Don’t Always Reflect the Driver’s State
Like field sobriety tests, BADC tests don’t always show the full picture, skewing the results and potentially harming drivers’ reputations.
The breathalyzer test, typically done during the stop, isn’t always accurate because many factors can skew the viability of the results. The calculation is usually the same for each person. However, someone’s weight, body temperature, and other factors can influence how affected someone is by the amount of alcohol in their system. Plus, taking alcohol-containing medicines can throw these tests off.
Note that a police officer may try to convince you to take any field sobriety tests or chemical tests. You can let them know that you will comply only because of their pressure. Be clear that you are not consenting but only complying—that can help your defense.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle
A police officer must have reasonable suspicion to search inside your vehicle, such as in the glove compartment, center console, under the seats, or in the trunk. They can confiscate any open alcohol or drugs that they can see in plain view when glancing in the vehicle as they approach and speak with you. They may also search your vehicle if they smell drugs, for instance.
However, without these key signs of potential illegal substances or open alcohol in the vehicle, they cannot legally search your vehicle. You have a right to refuse an officer access to search your vehicle if there is no reasonable suspicion or probable cause. When an officer asks if they can search your vehicle, you may remain silent, which implies that you don’t consent.
You can also tell the officer you don’t consent to a search and want to speak to a lawyer. Your attorney can help shield you from unlawful search and seizure and other unconstitutional practices the police may carry out.
Police Should Read Your Miranda Rights to You Upon Your Arrest
Any time you are arrested, the police must read your Miranda Rights to you. These are the rights you have regarding the resources and processes you’re entitled to in the court of law. If you’re arrested for a DUI, the police officer must read your Miranda Rights, informing you of what you’re charged with and that you have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and more.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Arizona?
Yes, DUI checkpoints are legal in Arizona. Some states have outlawed sobriety checkpoints because they were considered unconstitutional, but Arizona has upheld checkpoints based on the U.S. Constitution. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, Arizona conducts at least one checkpoint per month.
At a DUI checkpoint, the police stop every vehicle (or stop one vehicle in a certain pattern, such as every five vehicles). As they sound, these checkpoints aim to find drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the first officer at the checkpoint believes a driver to be intoxicated, the driver can go through an in-depth DUI investigation, such as questioning and a potential search.
Even if you’re at a DUI checkpoint, you still have the rights detailed above. It’s important to remember them, especially the right to an attorney. You can ask to speak with a criminal defense lawyer any time you’re at a checkpoint. They can investigate what happened and create a defense strategy. No matter the circumstances of your case, you may find yourself with a DUI charge you didn’t expect.