Sober Drivers Can Be Arrested for DUI in Phoenix

by Aaron M. Black • March 22, 2022

DUI ArrestSometimes even sober drivers are arrested for impaired driving in greater Phoenix. It does not happen often but everybody makes mistakes, including police officers, tests, and technicians, and these mistakes place sober drivers in jeopardy.

Several people who were wrongly arrested agreed to share their experiences with ABC 15 TV in Phoenix.

A 63-year-old man driving on the night of the Labor Day holiday after crossing a lane line did not do well on the field sobriety test and his speech was slurred, which the defense argued was caused by his New York accent and missing teeth.

In another drug DUI arrest the only drug in the person’s system was heartburn medication.

A woman stopped for a traffic violation was arrested based on her less than perfect field sobriety test and because of eye tremors, which is an indication of drug impairment. A drug test proved she was drug free.

Reading these accounts shows how traumatic it is to be falsely accused of a crime with the potential of going to jail and having a criminal record if convicted.

Officers do not believe even the most sincere motorist who states he or she is not impaired. Those who have been arrested while sober can feel intimidated and experience anger, fear, worry and depression. It may be that an arrest and conviction could mean job suspension or termination.

And there is not much, if anything, drivers can gain in filing a wrongful arrest lawsuit.

Arizona's Slightest Degree Law

Blood Alcohol LevelArizona ranks among the states having strict laws aimed at reducing impaired driving, including our state’s impaired to the “slightest degree” law, and that is a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than the base of 0.08 percent, even as low as 0.02 percent.

Measuring the BAC is accomplished by the sobriety and breathalyzer tests, and blood can be drawn and analysis to determine the BAC. While errors can occur in these tests, it is more difficult to determine how impaired, if at all, a person is from using drugs, even prescription medications.

The real issue is detecting drugs. The people arrested while sober were tested by especially trained officers, and one of them arrested nine or more drivers whose cases were dismissed because the evidence against them was lacking.

Arizona’s Drug Recognition Experts

Researchers have not yet invented a device to detect drugs in the body, so authorities in Arizona and many other states have officers trained in how to determine if drivers are impaired by drugs.

These are trained Drug Recognition Experts (DRE). The concept originated in Los Angeles in the 1970s and by the early 1980s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had developed the protocol for standardizing DRE training.

A National Roadside Survey conducted by the NHTSA in 2013-14 established that 20 percent of the drivers surveyed tested positive for “potentially impairing drugs.”

Arizona adopted the NHTSA’s Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) pilot program in 1987.

DRE Entry Requirements

An officer who decides to enter the program needs to satisfy four requirements:
  1. Have three years of law enforcement training, which may be waived.
  2. Apply through the current supervisor or a DRE coordinator from the DRE Advisory Committee.
  3. A history of good conduct.
  4. Submit to the DRE Advisory Committee a copy of the progress log for the standard field sobriety test and a certificate of the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE).

Arizona’s DRE Training Program

DRE training is a three part program comprised of 88 hours of instruction.

Part one is a DRE pre-school continuing for 16 hours learning drug evaluation techniques, strategies, and procedures.

Part two provides the candidate with comprehensive instructions in evaluating the drug examination, physiology, and the various effects drugs have and the legal considerations that come into play. After the classroom instruction is completed, the candidate must pass a written test.

Part three is a field certification spanning 60 to 90 days. The candidate learns how to evaluate a person suspected of driving while impaired by drugs under the supervision of a certified instructor. At least 12 drug DUI evaluations must be performed and then the candidate must pass a comprehensive exam.

Those in the program must recertify every two years.

At The Traffic Stop

Traffic StopWhen a traffic officer stops a driver for some violation and during the stop suspects the driver is impaired by a drug, a DRE officer is called to the scene to make an evaluation. The DRE looking for impairment by illicit or prescription drugs looks for dilated pupils, the rate of the pulse, muscle tone, sweating, and injection sites and poses questions and performs a sobriety test. If the driver under suspicion refuses to participate in the sobriety test, his or her license to drive is suspended.

A toxicology test is ordered to determine what drug is involved.

Drugged Driving Penalties

Drugged driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious of the misdemeanor class. If convicted, the defendant can be sentenced up to a maximum of six months in county jail and a minimum of 10 days. However, it may be possible to spend just one day in jail for booking.

The driver’s license is suspended for 30 days, and a restricted license for traveling to work or school can be issued for 60 days, before the license can be reinstated.

Financially, fines and surcharges reach $1,250 and the judge will order the defendant to have and pay for installing a rented interlocking ignition device to prevent impaired driving in alcohol related cases. The court also will order you to complete drug screening, education and treatment program at your expense. Serving time in service to the community may also be included in the punishment.

Defenses For Drugged Driving

The first line of defense is to politely tell the officer that you choose not to answer questions. That is because anything you say will be used to help convict you.
Every case has its unique fact pattern that can determine the best defense. These are the common defenses:
  • The traffic officer did not have the necessary probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to detain the vehicle, a hunch is not legal
  • The officer failed to say you have the Fifth Amendment protection to remain silent and the Sixth Amendment right to have an attorney during questioning
  • A search of the vehicle or the person was illegal
  • The sobriety test was not properly conducted
  • Test results were faulty
  • You were not impaired

Aaron M. Black for your defense
Being charged with drugged driving even though you were sober is wrong. Throughout my career as a defense attorney, I have aggressively challenged the state’s evidence and police procedures. I defend clients with compassion, because I know that good people can find themselves in bad situations.

My aim is always to have the charges dismissed or at least reduced by negotiating a plea agreement if you decide that is in your best interest.

In using me for your defense, you will receive personalized service and will never be handed off to an assistant. You will always be talking directly to me at all stages of the case.
Start your defense now by calling 480-729-1683 at any time day or night, weekends or holidays, and I will respond promptly unless I am in court or at trial. Or use my online contact form.

I defend drug and alcohol related DUI cases in justice, municipal, county, state and federal jurisdictions in and adjacent Maricopa County.

About the Author

Aaron Black Phoenix DUI LawyerAaron 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 defense matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes, and white-collar crime cases.

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 Attorney 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.
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