Relaxed Pandemic Restrictions Impact on Arizona Holiday DUIs

by Aaron M. Black • December 06, 2021

Arizonans craving freedom and eager to get back to their lives is evidenced by jammed parking lots in greater Phoenix shopping centers on Black Friday, the precursor of the year-end holiday season – this despite Covid-19 and the looming deadly Omicron virus.
 
Police DUI CheckpointArizona is experiencing a Covid-19 infection rate increase of 13 cases per 100,000 residents with the highest among people ages 15 to 24 and the lowest infection rate among people age 55 and older, according to Arizona State University’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
 
And this holiday season DUIs threaten public safety, too. The freeway warnings, Drive Hammered Get Nailed, went up before Thanksgiving.
 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) anti-DUI campaign for the 2021 holiday season warns that celebrating and not having a designated or other driver will cause DUI fatalities and destroy the lives and livelihood of those involved.
 
Arizona experienced an uptick in holiday DUI arrests from 2019 to 2020; and with more of us on the roads in 2021, law enforcement is expecting an increase in DUIs this holiday season.

Sheriff’s deputies and city police officers, from now through Christmas and the New Year’s holidays, are taking part in stepped-up DUI patrols, traffic stops and arrests.

Law enforcement uses two methods to find impaired drivers during the holiday season, the rolling stop and sobriety checkpoints.
 

Rolling stops and checkpoints – Rare in the Phoenix Area

A rolling stop is when a traffic officer on the roadway suspects a motorist is impaired because of a traffic violation such as weaving across lane lines or driving at night without headlights turned on. Such violations amount to probable cause or a reasonable suspicion of impairment. These are the legal grounds to stop the vehicle.

Checkpoints skirt the legal grounds necessary for a rolling stop to detain someone. These checkpoints are set up at various locations around Maricopa and other counties so officers can assess if a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Checkpoints have been challenged as unconstitutional but the US Supreme Court in 1990 ruled 6-3 they do not violate the Fourth Amendment guarding against unlawful searches and seizures. Dissenting from that decision Justice John Paul Stevens described sobriety checkpoints as “elaborate and disquieting publicity stunts.”

The NHTSA recommends aggressively using these two tactics in the agency’s annual holiday public relations campaign to get impaired drivers off of the roads.
 

Arizona’s slightly impaired rule

A driver can be detained in Arizona if he or she is impaired to the “slightest degree.” That can be less than the state’s baseline legal limit of a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent.

Slightly impaired can be different from individual-to-individual depending upon their size, weight, if the person had something to eat before drinking, the rate at which their metabolism absorbs alcohol, and if the person is an experienced drinker and has developed a tolerance to alcohol.
 

Alcohol Impairment by the numbers

Blood Alcohol ContentThese are the NHTSA’s “predictable effects” at various levels of percentage of impairment and what traffic officers are looking for in drivers when they make the traffic stop:

.02 – Some loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood

.05 – Exaggerated  behavior, maybe loss of small-muscle control such as focusing eyes, impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness, release of inhibition

.08 – Poor muscle coordination such as balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing, difficulty detecting danger, impaired judgment, less self-control, reduced reasoning, and memory impairment

.10 – Slurred speech, poor coordination, slow thinking, deterioration of reaction time and control

.15 - Significant loss of balance, significant loss of muscle control, vomiting may happen unless this level is slowly reached or the individual has a tolerance for alcohol

The NHTSA in general reports that one drink equals 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine has 12 percent alcohol, and 12 ounces of beer has 4.5 percent.
 

The sobriety checkpoint

On the road you will notice traffic officers directing you into a single line with officers standing on the road and stopping vehicles. But not all of them. About half of the vehicles are motioned to go ahead.

The vehicles that are not motioned to move are approached by an officer who is there to detect alcohol on the driver’s breath or open containers of alcohol including any empty cans. If you are transporting alcohol, it is best to place the bottle or cans out of the passenger cabin. If the container is open, it must travel outside of the cabin to avoid trouble.

How to behave if stopped by the police

DUI Checkpoint BehaviorWhen your vehicle is stopped by the police, the officer shines a flashlight into the cabin and asks if you’ve had anything to drink tonight, with the goal of building a case against you or letting you go. While it may seem an innocent question it is most serious. It is followed by asking how much alcohol have you had to drink, and other questions.

There is no reason for you to advance the officer’s suspicion. The most effective response is not giving into the officer’s attempt to get you to incriminate yourself. Simply politely say that you are invoking your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Anything you do say becomes evidence, so silence is in your best interest.

You also have the right under the Sixth Amendment to have an attorney present during questioning to protect your constitutional rights.
 
 

If You Are Detained and Investigated

The officer will then ask you to provide your license. You must identify yourself and provide this information to the officer.
 
The officer will then ask you to step out of the vehicle. You must comply with this request.
 
The officer will likely continue to ask you some questions – such as where you are coming from? What were you doing? Where you are going? Again, you have the right to invoke you 5th Amendment Right to remain silent.
 
The officer will tell you he would like to check your eyes. This is the HGN test. It tests for the bouncing of your eye to determine if alcohol has been consumed. You have the power to refuse this test. Refuse this test.
 
The officer will ask you to perform some balance tests – Walk and Turn, One leg Stand, Finger to Nose – You have the power to refuse. Refuse these tests.
 
The officer will ask you to blow into their preliminary breath test (PBT). They typically shove it in your face and say blow. Politely refuse this test.
 
You will likely ultimately be arrested for DUI based on driving behavior, odor of alcohol, bloodshot watery eyes, and whatever else the officer claims to have observed.
 
Again – ask to speak to a lawyer.
 
The officer will then ask you to consent to the blood or breath test back at the station or van. The officer will read the Admin Per Se. If you refuse the blood or breath test at this point your license will be suspended for one year. If you consent, there will be a 90 day suspension. Typically, you want to consent at this point because an officer will get a search warrant in a few minutes, get your blood, and suspend your license for a year. However, before you make any decision, ALWAYS ASK TO SPEAK WITH A LAWYER FIRST.
 

Phantom DUI checkpoints

Sometimes authorities post signs warning that a sobriety checkpoint is ahead. But it is not. The sign is placed so you cannot see too far ahead such as near a curve in the road and a dummy police vehicle may be used to add credibility to the trick.

If you attempt to avoid the checkpoint by abruptly turning around, a hidden officer will see your attempt to avoid the checkpoint and you have just given the officer a reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull you over.
 

Common DUI defenses

Every case is different and some of these defenses may not apply.
  • Police did not have a legal reason to pull you over
  • Faulty police paperwork
  • The field sobriety tests were not properly administered
  • Breath tests can be flawed because the breathalyzer gave a false reading
  • Blood tests were faulty or the sample was contaminated
  • The officer did not recite your Miranda rights to remain silent
     

Begin your legal defense

If you are stopped at a sobriety checkpoint or on the road, you need immediate legal representation because jail time and large fines can be imposed if you are found guilty.
In using Aaron M. Black law for your defense you will receive personalized legal services and will not be ushered off to an assistant. Begin your defense by calling my 24-7 hotline, 480-729-1683, or use my online contract form and I will promptly respond unless I am in court or at trial. I have a strong record of fighting hard for every one of my clients. I defend DUI cases in justice, municipal, state, and federal courts in Maricopa and its surrounding counties.


 

About the Author

Aaron Black is the founder and sole attorney of the Law Office of Aaron Black. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, his DUI and criminal defense law firm provides legal services to people who have received felony or misdemeanor charges from the state.

Aaron has developed a strong interest in defending people who have been arrested and received criminal charges for driving under the influence. With his professionalism and knowledge of Arizona DUI and criminal law, he has acted as a check and balance on the police, prosecution and courts and has protected a great number of his clients from excessive and unfair sentencing.

Along with DUI defense, Aaron handles a range of other criminal matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes and white-collar crime.

After graduating college in 2003 from the University of Arizona, Aaron decided to pursue a law degree. He followed a family long tradition and went to the University of South Dakota School of Law where he pursued his goal of becoming a criminal defense lawyer.

After passing the Arizona and South Dakota bar exams, Aaron joined the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender where he defended hundreds of people charged with serious criminal offenses. His work as a public defender helped him sharpen his litigation skills and gave him a unique insight into the Arizona criminal justice system.

Over the course of his 15-year legal career, Aaron has spent a considerable amount of time in both Arizona justice, municipal, state and federal courts. He has argued over 50 jury trials, tried over 100 bench trials and has become one of the highest-rated criminal and DUI defense attorneys in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. He has received a 10/10 rating from the legal directory Avvo because of his legal background and successful case record. Since 2014, he has received the Super Lawyer rating for his work as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.

You can review Aaron’s Attorney Bio page for more information about his background, education and experience as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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